Holy Indifference

St. Ignatius of Loyola was a Catholic priest who founded the Society of Jesus in the early 1500s. Members of this group are known as Jesuits, and they are recognized for their missionary efforts throughout the world.

In his pursuit of Jesus, Ignatius sought to cultivate an attitude that he called “indifference.” When we hear that word today, it conjures up images of someone who is apathetic and uncaring. When faced with a choice, we expect someone who is indifferent to say, “I don’t care, whatever. It doesn’t matter to me.”

However, that’s not exactly what Ignatius had in mind when he used the word “indifference.” Far from a lack of passion, indifference, according to Ignatius, involves the passionate pursuit of Jesus above all other things. He speaks of a healthy detachment from the things and relationships of this world so that we are truly free to seek God. While we might receive all things as a gift from God, we should hold them loosely understanding that they are not ours to keep. 

For Ignatius, the goal of life was to draw near to God, and so we should eagerly pursue the things that bring us closest to God, whatever they might be. In his Spiritual Exercises, he went on to say that “we should not prefer health to sickness, riches to poverty, honor to dishonor, a long life to a short. The same holds for all other things.” In other words, we should be living in such loving union with Christ, that the circumstances of life don’t concern us. If going through hardship of some kind means that we grow in our relationship with Jesus, then we should welcome it as a gift.

I first came across this concept as I was listening to a teaching on decision making. The speaker was talking about the need be free from hurry when we are making plans. Instead, we should slow down and take time to be with Jesus. We should explore our own attitudes regarding our situation and prayerfully submit them to the Lord. If we find ourselves choosing between a set of options, we want to be in a place where we truly want whatever God wants. We lay aside our preferences and agendas, and we passionately pursue God above all else. We are indifferent, free from any particular attachments to the things of this world, and we are happy to go wherever Jesus leads.

While the concept of holy indifference fascinates me, I’ll be the first to admit that it’s a difficult mindset to achieve. So often the things of God are in danger of being crowded out by my own wants and desires. Yet as we humbly offer ourselves to Jesus, we learn to follow the example he set in the garden of Gethsemane. May we pray along with him, “Father…not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42).

— Pastor Brandon