Vol. 8, No. 9
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A recent issue of the Dallas Morning News "Religion Section" revealed this interesting statistic. "For years, the fastest-growing 'religious group' in America has been those who regard themselves as spiritual but not religious--the so called 'none of the aboves,' who, if asked their religious denomination, would say they have none. These 'nones' have more than doubled their numbers in the last 10 years. There are now more than 30 million of them in the United States. If they were a religious denomination, they would trail only the Catholic Church (with 67 million members) in size."
For some time, many have been making a distinction between being spiritual and being religious. Religion is equated with ritual and tradition, and so many reject the term. To them it is better to be spiritual, which they claim one can be by oneself, whenever one wants and wherever one may be. In their minds, religion requires church and all that goes with it. Being spiritual requires only a state of mind, which is defined by the person, not an organization. By this definition, you can feel spiritual and it not disrupt your routine or require anything from you, other than the feeling itself, of having genuine feelings. It offers greater appeal than the commitment being part of a church does.
This is a misunderstanding of what being religious is. The term used in Scripture for religion/religious speaks positively of an attitude of mind which results in genuine devotion to God. Acts of mercy, love and holiness, then, are religious. It is not far removed from the term spiritual, which refers to that from the Spirit, in contrast to the flesh, what is carnal. Biblically speaking, if you are truly spiritual, you naturally would be religious. If your life is focused on those things of God, who is Spirit, then it will influence what you do. Whether in worship or service, religion and spiritual are complimentary terms, as we are "living sacrifices" (religious) who are not conformed to the world but transformed by the will of God (spiritual - Romans 12:1-2).
Of course, the church is important, as Christ died for her (Ephesians 5:25), and God adds us to it (Acts 2:47). I concur that denominational Christianity has been found wanting, but New Testament Christianity, and being a part of the one true body of Christ, is still largely unknown to most people in society. Making this artificial distinction between being spiritual and religious, and so exempting oneself from being part of the church, is not found in the pages of Scripture. It may placate the selfish desires of humanity, who want to continue in a selfish lifestyle with God's blessings, but it isn't what God approves. Salvation isn't God condoning whatever our desires may be at the moment, but our submission to his will for our lives, of being part of his body, the church, of growing in his image (Galatians 2:20).
However, reading this article made me ask myself how many in the church may feel this way. When people can do anything and everything they want for themselves, but then offer whatever excuse comes to mind to exempt them from the assembly, from service, from Christian living, have they become a "none of the above?" Even for those in the church, do some carry the same mistaken idea about what it is to be a Christian? I fear this worldly misconception is all too prevalent in the body of Christ. Too many want a relationship with God to be on their terms. Being in his body, though, means we have yielded up self to be like Christ, who didn't come to be served, but to serve (Mark 10:45). Are we in the church to serve, or to be served? We must allow ourselves to be molded in the image of our Lord, and be genuine Christians. Trying to force God to accept our terms will never work; yielding ourselves to him finds his love, grace, mercy and life. "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of My Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 7:21).