Dallas Willard died today. However, the step he took from this life to the next was very short. He believed and taught that the Kingdom of God is at hand. It is near and accessible for anyone and everyone who wants to take hold of it. His life was a deliberate practice of that truth. He disciplined himself to be the kind of person who pleased God and enjoyed the benefits of God’s pleasure.
I had the amazing privilege of taking a seminary class with Dallas Willard. With his guidance I gained appreciation for the immediate presence of the Kingdom of God. I added a contemplative element to my activistic spirituality. Not only do I want to extend Christ’s fame to the ends of the earth, I want to permanently rest in his presence.
Dr. Willard persuasively argues that:
The point of discipleship is not to quit doing bad things or even to do good things, but to become a person who naturally does good things and not bad things. Discipleship is becoming more like Jesus in thought and action.
Dr. Willard’s class was not easy. For example, the pre-class assignment included reading about 30 books and writing a report on each one. His class also included surprises. For example, we did not meet in a classroom at an academic institution. Instead, we met in a circle in a monastery at the top of a hill overlooking the ocean in Southern California. The first in-class assignment was to go to our quarters and sleep for ten hours . Dr. Willard told us that, ‘Rest is a spiritual discipline.”
He passionately wanted us to learn that God created us to live in His Kingdom, which is very near to us. We tend to become trapped in the more naturally visible reality of this world. The point is not to conquer our natural inclinations associated with this world, but to become the kind of people who rise above these. Christ has given us spiritual disciplines to teach us to live in the Reality of His Kingdom. His book, The Spirit of the Disciplines, helps us understand this basic Christian doctrine and practice.
I was wonderfully blessing to sit under Dallas Willard for two solid weeks. He was challenging and stimulating. He led us into a new understanding of the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom is a current and present reality that we can be part of by grace.
I confess that I understand this while I’m deliberately working on it, but I tend to loose this perspective when I allow myself to wander. I have not yet become a person who is naturally like Jesus. Remembering Dr. Willard reminds me that becoming that kind of person is possible.