“… (W)e need to check that our disciplines foster the fruits of social as well as individual compassion (though even individual compassion ultimately is social compassion by virtue of the interdependence of all things). We need to ensure that our spiritual attentiveness leads to sensitivity and action that fosters God’s just and reconciling peace among the many social configurations of our planet — ethnic, class, and racial groups; nations; deep religious traditions — and between these and our ecological environment (including our own bodies).
What has been called the spiritual life in the past often has had a sad tendency to ignore this wider concern so central to the Church’s prophetic tradition. This compartmentalization of the individual spiritual life is, happily, breaking down today. Increasingly, spiritual life is understood as the life of the Spirit in the whole life of the planet, coaxing us toward ever-deeper, liberating communion with one another and witnessing to our shared and gifting Source who empowers our true unity in diversity.
At the same time, it is evident today that those who once tried to collapse the spiritual life into direct action for a just, human community have discovered that God’s shalom requires more than this. If such action is to be sustained and discerning, it must be rooted in a direction relation to God in prayer, Scripture, and daily attentiveness, not only for the activist, but as part of the goal for the community for whom he or she works. Without a deep spiritual vision, realism about grace and freedom, and sustained discipline, no community can have an adequate foundation for the fullness of life to which we are called. It is hard enough to find our way with these. Without them, we lose our orientation to the discerning knowledge of how to be in the world but not of it: alone and together. This knowledge for Christians begins with faith in God for us as revealed in Jesus Christ. It is sustained through time in a rhythm of appreciation and active ministry, both in solitude and with others who form the various dimensions of community to which we are called.
-Tilden H. Edwards. Living With Apocalypse: Spiritual Resources for Social Compassion (San Francisco, CA: Harper & Row, 1984), 5.
This passage speaks of Spiritual Discipline(s) and the dangers of extremes. One could be said to be the extreme of the Individualist. This person focuses on self in relationship to God, with little focus others in the community of faith, or the broader human community. It might be said that this person sees spiritual discipline in emphasizing the first half of the Great Commandment (love of God) without understanding its implications in terms of the second part (love of neighbor). The other extreme is that of the Activist. This person is so focused on helping others (love of neighbor) that the foundation of that love (love of God) is wanting.
Spiritual vitality rejects these extremes and brings the two aspects of the Great Commandment together.