Religion vs. Spirituality (Part 1)

This past Sunday we kicked off our series called “Religious vs. Spiritual” and it went really well so I thought I would share it with our readers. It will obviously not be as in depth as the message but I still hope you take something away from it.

The Problem

This is a passionate subject with a lot of people with a lot of opinions. This wouldn’t be nearly has bad if it weren’t for the fact that our passion is derived from our individual experiences and therefore never completely lines up with anyone else’s understanding of the topic. We think we all agree but we usually agree for far different reasons.

Where to begin

I have decided to start on the topic of religion. First lets strip it all down to a very simple definition of religion. The definition works whether you are a Christian, Muslim, Hindu, or any other type. Are you ready?

Religion is the establishment of rules in order to facilitate or enhance a set of beliefs.

This was the purpose of the law, to set the Jews a part from everyone else and facilitate their dedication to God.

The Accusation

So what you are saying is that you are pro religion?! Yes, absolutely! Hang on. don’t tune me out yet. If religion is simply the establishment of rules or boundaries to facilitate or enhance beliefs that I already hold, how can that be bad?

Boundaries have helped me be a better son, employee, a citizen and much more. Boundaries have even made me a better Christ follower. Notice I didn’t say that they made me a Christ follower just a better one. But more on that in a bit. My point is simply that rules and boundaries aren’t bad. In fact when asked, Jesus counseled a young man to “keep the commandments”. That might seem to be a little religious of him but looking at my own life, it’s just plain good advice. You can read it for yourself in Matthew 19:16-17.

Tainted Religion

The truth is that religion can be corrupted just like anything else or it can simply be based on a flawed set of beliefs. Let me give you three examples of tainted religion. This is not religion itself, it is religion that has been distorted. Here we will begin to focus on the Christian religion to whom God is the one who sets the boundaries.

  1. Preferential Boundaries. These types of boundaries are those things that are based on you. God hasn’t necessarily made a formal statement on the topic but you feel strongly about it. A short while ago I wrote a post on those who choose to condemn Harry Potter and yet look the other way at inappropriate humor or other things that they may find more enjoyable. If you do not feel like you should have anything to do with Harry Potter then you shouldn’t, but when you impose your preferential boundary on others, your religion is being tainted. Another danger here is that many time our preferential boundaries take the place of God’s actual boundaries.
  2. Personal Boundaries. These are similar to preferential boundaries but God has said a few things about these. They usually aren’t for every person but God has told some to obey these boundaries. An example is that fact that I am not supposed to drink alcohol. Does that mean no one can drink alcohol? No, it means I can’t. Does that mean everyone else can drink alcohol? No, it means I can’t. You are going to have to take that one up with God yourself. Paul was called to stay single. That’s not everyone’s boundary but it is some people’s boundary. When we play God and try and decide that these personal boundaries are universal boundaries, our religion is tainted.
  3. Misplaced Boundaries. This brings us to a good point. There are some universal boundaries that God expects all of his children to obey. The corruption here happens when we enforce those boundaries to do something they were never meant to do. Remember a few paragraphs ago I said that boundaries did not make me a Christ follower, just a better one. It appears that many times the church today believes that morality is more important than a relationship with Christ. We preach how to live moral to people who are on the path of destruction and those morals we are teaching will not change their destination, only Jesus can. When someone is drowning it is not the time to teach them the breast stroke. They just need to be saved. Swimming lessons come later. When we enforce rules over the life giving relationship with Jesus, our religion is tainted.

Let’s examine ourselves. What boundaries do we readily recognize in our lives? Which ones are preferential, personal and misplaced?

That was part 1 and my 2 cents.