How Can You Be Spiritual But Not Religious?

 

[The following is an email one of our leaders received from his former Pastor in Guatemala.  It answers the question –  Can You Be Spiritual But Not Religious.  I added the title for purposes of publishing on this website.  As a disclaimer, the views expressed herein do not necessarily express the views of Grace Church Medellin.  All comments inside [] are the personal views of Steve Tuggle.  Those comments also do not necessarily express the views of Grace Church Medellin.]

I think we have all heard the following statement, and perhaps used it ourselves.  “I think of myself as spiritual and not religious.”  Now, as a person of “religion”, I sometimes think of that statement negatively.  It is an excuse people use to not participate in organized religion.  One of my favorite books in high school was entitled “How to be a Christian without being Religious” by Fritz Ridenour, a Lutheran. 

In Christianity, Can you be Spiritual But Not Religious?  Is Christianity a “Religion”?

[We Christians don’t think of ourselves as religious – we think of ourselves as “forgiven”.  Fritz Ridenour said in his book, “Christianity is not a “religion; it is a “relationship”.  And according to the Books of Ephesians and Romans, God, the Father initiated that relationship through His Amazing Grace.]

If you read the Gospels carefully and critically, we see that Jesus’ incarnation, was not to start a new religion.  His coming among us was not as most Christians think. It was actually to save all religions from the laws (Torah) that separated sincere people and kept them divided.

Why Did Jesus Come To Earth?

Jesus came among us to proclaim that “religion” had come to an end.  His message was that all people could form one human family caring for each other and God’s Creation.  [In the truest sense of the word, “religion” is man reaching out to satisfy God.  Christians know from Romans 3:23 that we can never satisfy God’s standards.  Therefore, the only way we can be reconciled to God is through His free gift of faith in Jesus.]  In a sense, the critics are absolutely correct.  The religions of the world are responsible for the world’s divisions and wars among people.  The religions of the world have subtly left the intention of their founders.  They adopted rules and ways of being that cut them off from others, rather than unite them with each other.  Take Jesus’ words in the Gospel of John.

          Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.  I do not give to you as the world gives. [John 14:27]

How does “Religion” respond to the message of Jesus? 

Humankind seeks peace as the world does, by uniting the “Us” against the “Them.”  And religions, for the most part, have adopted the world’s way by making enough rules to make it difficult for many people on the “outside” to find a community within them.  The Christian “religion” [not the Christian faith], knew full well that Jesus gave only two commands: Love God and neighbor and gather to celebrate Eucharist (thanksgiving) together.  Nevertheless, they adopted so many rules “from biblical teaching” that effectively make it impossible to find unity.  These rules, or disagreement with them, have led to countless divisions in Christianity alone.  Instead of following Jesus’ commands and gathering together in thankfulness for Jesus’ presence in our midst, we make rules.  And if I don’t like your rules, my friends and family will leave and make our own community and find rules (Torah) we can agree with.

And What was Jesus’ Response?

This is why Jesus, in his last talk with his disciples before going to the Cross, says

          I have said these things to you while I am still with you.  But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. [John 14:26]

Now over 2000 years later, the “cat is out of the bag.”  There are thousands of religions and many divisions in each one.  How are we ever going to heal or eliminate religious fervor/division and get back to our spiritual roots?  I think the followers of Jesus are most responsible, guided by the Holy Spirit, to bring about a spiritual revival across all religious faiths, denominations, or people who are searching or even not-searching for God.  The Holy Spirit reminds us again today of what Jesus said and taught.  We need to end religion and gather in the Spirit with all people of good will.  We must love Jesus.  And since Jesus is no longer with us physically, we must let go of the fear that causes us to gather only with those we agree with or feel comfortable with.

          Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.  You heard me say to you, “I am going away, and I am coming to you.” If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I.  And now I have told you this before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe. [John 14:1]

In Light of All This, How Should We Then Live?

The Holy Spirit, the Advocate, is the one “called alongside” (parakletos) to defend the accused or the victim of accusation.  Anyone who seeks to bring down the barriers of religion and build unity will be victimized and accused of being anti-religious, disrespectful of holy laws, and being relativistic.  This is not to say that “one religion is as good as any other,” but that all human beings are already related (ligament) to one another, the root meaning of the word religion.  So:  What would Jesus have us do now?  I think Jesus wants us to do the following.

  1. Begin to live the Gospel vision of unity seeing all people as our brothers and sisters in this world.
  2. Love and affirm the good in them.
  3. Forgive them when needed (as we have been forgiven).
  4. Let go of the religious barriers we’ve grown up with. 

This I think is living the life in the Spirit Jesus desires us to live.  All human beings are invited to gather together in Eucharist:  giving thanks for God’s love, the gift of life, and all of Creation.  

Amen!

Rev. John Smith,

Antigua, Guatemala

[Ps.  Since all of the Bible verses quoted in this letter are from John Chapter 14, it would appear that there is much wisdom to be gained from studying this chapter.  I therefore highly encourage everyone to study John Chapter 14.  In fact, our Grace Church Medellin Small Group Bible Studies are currently studying the entire Gospel of John.  We invite you to join us either Monday morning or Monday evening.]

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10 thoughts on “How Can You Be Spiritual But Not Religious?”

  1. Gomer, you are so right.  Christianity is a relationship with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, who came from heaven with one purpose – to take the punishment for our sin by dying a horrible death on the Cross.  He was then resurrected by God and now lives and is seated at the right hand of the Father.  Jesus said He was going to prepare a place for us and will one day come to take us back to live with Him forever.

    I pray that everyone who reads this will contact a Christian friend or a Christian Church and learn how to know that you have eternal life.

  2. I don’t know if this is a coincidence or God is indeed working at me right now. It is my second time to read that line that says, “Christianity is not a religion but a relationship”. First, in a cover photo of a friend in Facebook. Second, here in your article, I read it once again. Praise God!

    With regard to “how should we then live?”, I agree with you, Rev. John Smith. We need to let go of the religious barriers that we have grown up. And we can have unity in diversity!

  3. Stella, if Kyle would allow us to publish 5 sentence blogs, your response would be a perfect blog on my topic!  I agree with your assessment.  The Bible says in Galatians 5:22-23:

    “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  There is no law against these things.”

    In that same book, Galatians 3:11 it says:

    “So it is clear that no one can be made right with God by trying to keep the law.” (religion).

  4. This topic is what I have been look forward to address. Both spirituality and religious are two different entity which do not depend on each other to exist. Spirituality can gives or trigger hope and endeavors while Religious can promise reward for conformity and can fuel fears. So, it is easier to be spiritual rather than being religious if you want to nurture hope and at the same time  concur fear. That’s my own view.

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  5. Hello Ronald.  First, I must apologize.  Yesterday I changed the theme on two of my websites, and when that went well, I decided to explore other themes for Grace Church Medellin.  Thus the incompleteness of the website functionality.  I will fix that this afternoon.  Thank you for pointing that out.

    We live in Medellin, Colombia.  Our purpose in coming here was and still is to establish a Christian Church for English-speakers who live or visit here.  We need a community that can be here when people far away from home have troubles and need help.

    My website and its related Facebook page are designed to get the word out that we are here, what our goals are, and what we are doing.  The posts are designed to draw traffic, and they are starting to work.  This site is not about making money, and there will not be any affiliate links.

    Please check us out tomorrow and see if I have addressed your concerns.  And please feel free to link your site to any of the articles that you think your audience might be interested in reading. 

  6. Your website seems to be purely informational and offers opinions about your church and spirituality without indicating how the information is supposed to help people. Is this a site where you intend to help people find products that could help the with their journey? If so, I recently read an article about affiliate marketing in the Christian world and I am thinking about inserting some of those links into my own site which also intends to discuss religion and prayer.

    Some of your pages begin with an unfinished sentence and do not have a “read more” link where the full article or paper related to the theme sentence can be read. It is not clear to the reader that one must click on the title to get that information. I presume you intend to change that. It may be, like mine, a baby website and you have plans to grow and build out your site. I also noticed that you have been working on it at least since January 2019.

  7. Lee, thank you for your comment and for giving me the opportunity to respond.  It is very unfortunate that Christianity is saddled with so much “bad press” based on the actions of many people who most likely were not really Christians themselves.

    In Matthew 7, Jesus is wrapping up His “Sermon on the Mount”. In that passage, Jesus says many false prophets will come saying Jesus is “Lord, Lord”.  They will talk about all the great things they did in His name.  And Jesus’ response will be “I never knew you.  Away from me, you evildoers!”

    Christianity, on the other hand, is completely initiated by God.  God reached out to us.  God sent His Son as a free gift.  God says believe that Jesus died and rose again.  God even gives us the faith to believe.  Then God sends His Holy Spirit to live inside of us giving us direction and discernment and teaching us all things.

    That is not “religion”.  That is a personal relationship with the Savior of the World.  Acts 4:12 (NLT) says:

    “There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.”

     

  8. In the past, I think people have had a confused idea about Christianity.  They have viewed Christianity as one of many religions, all with the same goal – to do or say things that will make them acceptable to God.  And in that environment, many “supposed” Christians became zealots, adding requirement after requirement and leaving people with negative feelings about religions including Christianity.  Those “religious” people were arrogant because they all felt that theirs was the only answer.

    But in the truest sense, Christianity is not a religion, it is a relationship.  A relationship exists between Christ followers and Jesus Christ. 

  9. Wow, Todd.  Thanks for this amazing comment, and especially for your transparency.  It is very unfortunate how so many well-meaning people have trouble understanding and communicating basic Christian principles.  We have learned that it is not our job to convince anyone – that is the responsibility of the Holy Spirit.  As the Bible says in 1 Peter 3:15,16 (NLT),

    “Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life.  And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it.  But do this in a gentle and respectful way.”

    That is far different than “believe what I believe or else”.  We love our Lord Jesus and want to get to know Him better and serve Him every day.

    Thanks again for your terrific comment.

  10. Awesome article. Something that drove me away from Christianity is the fact it has done so much to separate, divide, and of course, forcefully convert people in the past, especially as it spread throughout Europe during the dark ages. This made me want nothing to do with it, especially when it came to the “believe what I believe or else” ideology that I was forced to grow up with.

    This article has definitely given me a new perspective on the Christian faith in that perhaps after all this time I have misperceived it as a religion, but instead is in more of the spiritual realm of unity, something I can definitely agree with here. I’d much rather see Christianity as a form of unification and definitely of peace in what might be its purest sense than a religion that was waged endless preventative war.

    Former Congressman Ron Paul was aware of this, once stating, “What if Christianity actually teaches peace, and not preventative wars of aggression?”

    After reading this article, I can definitely see where Dr. Paul’s perspective stems from.

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