I should have written this post some time ago. I think it’s important to say things you need to get off your chest, regardless of whether anyone is listening or not. That’s not to say I don’t tell my friends when I have thoughts or ideas, but you get the point. I’ve got a question for you: When you hear somebody say the word “sex,” what is your immediate reaction? Positive or negative? For me it’s negative because most times I hear the term used it’s in a secular setting and usually used for a secular reason. However, the word “sex” in itself isn’t bad at all. It’s a good term-God created it himself-but when it’s used in a negative way it has a different meaning.
Many times I hear of people who talk about spirituality and religiosity as if they’re mutually exclusive. I don’t believe that. I know of people who act purely religious with little spirituality, and I know of others who claim they’re spiritual and not religious. I’m sure you know of people like this too. There are a lot of us on this planet.
When Jesus ministers to the Pharisees in the Gospels, he often chastises them for being too religious. They disrespect his father’s house by making it a marketplace and scold Jesus for associating with people low on the social class totem pole as well as for healing on the Sabbath. Every time Jesus is angered with them for appearing to look good on the outside yet not having pure motives on the inside, they deserve it. Their motives are wrong and the religion they are practicing is flawed.
With this being said, is it possible that the reason the American church lacks at discipleship is because we create a culture that in an attempt to make sure we aren’t Pharisaic, we’ve swung the anti-religion pendulum so far that we don’t want to be associated with the word? We don’t read our bibles. We don’t want to evangelize. We don’t recognize the rules put in place by the government. We go over and above to make sure people know we aren’t religious. I can’t say how many times I’ve heard the phrase “It’s not about religion, it’s about a relationship.” This phrase taken out of context can ruin a mindset and I want to make sure that’s not happening here: I realize a relationship with Jesus is the most important part of any Christian’s walk. Central. Essential. However, a relationship does not stand alone. It must come with its boundaries and its rules or it wont last.
I believe that the word “religion” has that same effect of the word “sex”-no, not that they are the same word obviously, but when they are used, people can have the same reaction. When heard in a conversation, many times I hear it being used negatively. But religion in itself isn’t bad-when it’s used wrong like the way the Pharisees used it, then it’s faulty religion. Merriam-Webster defines religion as “an organized system of beliefs, ceremonies, and rules used to worship a god or group of gods.” Christians celebrate Christmas. We also celebrate Easter, worship on the Sabbath, have rules that we follow, and in this we are worshiping God. I want to put a disclaimer out there that if you’ve been hurt by faulty religion, I’m sorry. I apologize on behalf of whoever hurt you and didn’t speak the truth in love, unfairly judged you, betrayed you, or whatever else. Faulty religion, a religion where the actions on the outside don’t line up with the heart on the inside, has no place in today’s Christianity.
With this, I hope I don’t sound like a Pharisee. My prayer (and I have prayed for you before you read this) is that my perspective can help you in your own walk and/or understanding of Christianity. A real and genuine relationship with Christ will naturally lead to a completely new and radical way of thinking, which way of thinking goes against the natural way of the world. Jesus says to gain life you must lose it. “Hey, you know the ones that you would consider an enemy?” he asks us. “Go ahead and love them. You’re being persecuted? I want you to pray for that person.”
So with that I ask myself. Am I a spiritual person? Absolutely. I ask the Holy Spirit for help all the time, so that I may walk not according to my fleshly desires. I make sure I have spontaneity in my walk so that my relationship with Christ isn’t a constant routine of follow rules and reading the Bible. Am I a religious person? Absolutely. I’m guided by certain convictions and rules that I deem necessary to follow. I recognize the ways I can give God the glory he deserves.
Religion isn’t the problem. It’s faulty religion-one that places value in the wrong things with the wrong motives. I apologize if I seem a little scatterbrained. I should have written this post some time ago.