Much like last week’s discussion of Yoga, the practice of meditation can seem a bit strange to Christians. Is this something Christians should practice, or is it too rooted in eastern mysticism and religions for us to use? What do we even mean by the word? Should Christians practice meditation?
What Do You Mean by Meditation?
The first question you need to ask is what is meant by meditation? The term is used in some capacity by dozens of different religions. Not all of them necessarily referring to the same thing. They all have to do with focus, but what that focus is on or for will vary dramatically.
When Christians talk about meditation, such as meditating on a Bible verse or attribute of God, the goal is to fill yourself with something good. Tim Keller gives an excellent description of Christian meditation in his book “Prayer.”
Meditation is likened to tree roots taking in water [in Psalm 1]. That means not merely knowing a truth but taking it inside and making it part of yourself. Meditation is spiritually “tasting” the Scripture—delighting in it, sensing the sweetness of the teaching, feeling the conviction of what it tells us about ourselves, and thanking God and praising God for what it shows us about him. Meditation is also spiritually “digesting” the Scripture—applying it, thinking out how it affects you, describes you, guides you in the most practical way. It is drawing strength from the Scripture, letting it give you hope, using it to remember how loved you are. To shift metaphors, meditation is taking the truth down into our hearts until it catches fire there and begins to melt and shape our reactions to God, ourselves, and the world.
With that description, of course Christians should practice meditation. That’s the foundation of a good Bible Study. We see this supported in numerous verses of scripture, such as Philippians 4:8 and Matthew 6:6.
What does Everyone Else Mean by Meditation?
Things get a little bit more complicated when stepping outside of Christian meditation. Often it about emptying yourself of something bad, not filling with something good. However, like yoga, this will depend on the context. In a religious context, such as Buddhism, the concept of emptying your mind makes sense. Their goal is to separate from this plane of existence and reach enlightenment. However, many sources are distancing themselves from those roots and saying that meditation is not about emptying, or anything spiritual. A New York Times article on mindful meditation put it this way.
“Mindfulness meditation isn’t about letting your thoughts wander. But it isn’t about trying to empty your mind, either. Instead, the practice involves paying close attention to the present moment — especially our own thoughts, emotions and sensations — whatever it is that’s happening.”
Should Christians practice meditation in that form? If meditation is merely a way to calm yourself and focus on your breathing, that’s a natural and healthy human practice. If in the process we are making it a more spiritual practice, incorporating things like chakras, or turning excessively inward for understanding, we start to have a problem. We do not want to focus so deeply on ourselves that we shut out God.
Discuss your thoughts for this post on our Facebook Group here.