Perhaps your experience is the same as mine. Yesterday, I needed to get my campus parking pass out of my wife’s car. I reached in to grab it from the rearview mirror and it spun around the base and landed on the floor on the other side of the car. Gravity propelled it downward.
I’ve been on the elliptical machine before at the gym with a towel around my next. Unbeknownst to me, it is slowing sliding off to one side until it falls to the ground and I have to stop, get off the machine and pick it up. When I was a kid and doing carnival rides, we always knew we had to get the change out of our pockets, or it would provide a little extra income to the workers.
Gravity is a fact of life and we deal with it every day of our lives. Cribs and hospital beds have rails to prevent little and big humans from falling to the floor. Porches and stairs have railings for the same reason. Napkins are placed in laps while dining because of the possibility of food dropping off our forks or out of our mouths onto our laps. Workers building skyscrapers wear harnesses attached to solid beams in order to guard against plunging hundreds of feet to the ground. Gravity is a fact of life and we have to be intentional to avoid its negative effects.
There also exists a spiritual gravity that was created as a result of the Fall. It works in a similar way as physical gravity: It naturally pulls us down, and we have to be intentional and alert that it doesn’t cause us harm. In my years working with college students, I have seen this gravity at work. Students who are following the Lord come to campus in search of good friends and a good education. Often, during their first days on campus, out of fear of being alone, they connect with those nearby regardless if they are believers or not. Typically, they are not. So, they join in on the party scene because it is better than staying all alone in their room on a Friday or Saturday night. Gravity quickly takes over and does its natural work. These once-committed students are drug down to the depths, away from the Lord. As James says, they are dragged away and enticed by their own evil desire (1:14). Gravity.
Students also can feel the effects of spiritual gravity in the classroom. Professors with an atheistic or agnostic worldview can come against a Christian faith that is immature and not well-formed, and bring it down with the wisdom of the world. Gravity.
It is not that this spiritual gravity is irresistible, but indeed we each are weak in the face of its force. As was each of our ancestors, we are prone to fall. It is in our nature to be drug down. The Scriptures are full of accounts of people falling to the power of spiritual gravity—Saul, David, and Peter, to name a few.
As I look back over the course of my life, I see the effects of spiritual gravity, where I gave into temptation, was entrenched in worldly thinking, and lacked in love toward those around me. I didn’t set out in these directions on purpose; rather, I wasn’t intentional enough to guard myself against my natural inclinations by arming myself with spiritual armor. To protect and resist the negative effects of spiritual gravity requires intentionality. And in order to be intentional, you must recognize your vulnerabilities to its effects.
Typically, college students get hurt physically because they don’t think they are vulnerable. They take a lot of risks. Here at my school, every year we have students hurt, or even killed, from waterfall jumping. A friend of mine is a rescue diver, and he has had the unpleasant task of pulling some of their bodies from the water. He tells me that often they don’t understand the power of the current below or that the water levels have changed.
I think the same is true of many of us when it comes to spiritual gravity. We honestly don’t know the risks. We don’t understand the dangers of a prayerless life, or a life that spends little or no time studying the Scriptures. We fail to understand the danger of being overtaken by the thinking and behavior of the culture. (I recently talked with a student who told me of her involvement in a local church. She also told me she was living with her boyfriend.) And we don’t understand the essential need for a community of believers that goes beyond sitting in the same room once a week for an hour or so, and provides us with encouragement, accountability, and opportunities to hone our spiritual gifts in order to serve the Kingdom of God.
Spiritual gravity is just as real as the physical kind, and we need the same intentionality to resist its negative effects in our lives. Otherwise, gravity will do what gravity does—pull us downward.
© Jim Musser 2020