Practice Makes Perfect?

Practice makes perfect, the saying goes. But in most human endeavors, practice simply leads to more practice. Concert pianists must play scales without ceasing, basketball stars must rehearse their lay-ups, and lovers must repeat "I love you" each morning and evening. Such simple, repeated actions do not lead to a sterile perfection, but serve rather to deepen the identity of the practitioner. Practices remind us of who we are, and only through a lifetime of practice can we discover our most fundamental character. Like the musician, the athlete, and the lover, Christians must "practice our faith" in order truly to be Christians.

This is the argument of the 13 contributors to Practicing Our Faith. They commend 12 "practices"-including Sabbath keeping, "honoring the body," sharing hospitality, and "singing our lives"-to contemporary Christians who may wonder how to be faithful "in a divided, fast-paced society." Practices, they explain, "are things Christian people do together over time in response to and in the light of God’s active presence for the life of the world." Practices address the basic human need for food, shelter, rest, and companionship; they are performed both individually and collectively; they are rooted in tradition yet open to creative adaptation in the present; and they can draw us into ever deeper levels of commitment.

In a sense, Practicing Our Faith is a contemporary version of the monastic "rule." Texts like the Rule of St. Benedict are the constitutional documents of religious orders; as such they spell out the daily activities that hold the monastic community together. They tell us who monks are by telling us what monks do, and likewise Practicing Our Faith tells us who Christians are by telling us what Christians do.

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Sojourners Magazine November-December 1998
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