Posts Tagged ‘religious people’

As Christians, and Christianity, increasingly fall out of favor within the popular culture, I’ve noticed a growing reluctance to use either of those terms.  More often, you’ll hear such people described as, “religious” or “spiritual” or maybe even as “people of faith”.  Within the church community (a.k.a. the faith community), you’ll frequently hear the word “believers” used.  And while all of those terms can be functional to some degree, none of them is singularly adequate to describe what a true follower of Jesus Christ is meant to be.  Though I can’t deny that the meaning of the word, “Christian” has become progressively more difficult to define, these substitute terms manage to introduce even more ambiguity into the conversation.


It all starts with what you believe.  And any person who believes that there is a god (or a higher power) could rightfully be classified as a “believer”.  This would include other major religious groups, such as Muslims and Jews.  When these, or any other, beliefs become transcendent, we commonly refer to them as faith.  Thus, being a “person of faith” simply means that an individual fervently believes is something (e.g. a Humanist has faith in the basic goodness of man).


Whatever we choose to believe about God, and His purposes, forms the basis of our theology; and how we choose to respond in light of that theology becomes the foundation of our religion and religious practice.  Major religions generally derive their doctrine from ancient writings such as the Torah, the Quran, and the Bible; while varying interpretations of those texts further splinter those groups into even smaller assemblies (e.g. sects, denominations…).  While having a theology of any kind will normally result in some sort of religious response, people can, and do, practice religion that is not specifically related to God (e.g. nature worshipers).  Thus, being “religious” isn’t as indicative as we might think.


Similarly, being spiritual is little more than demonstrating an awareness of the spiritual realm, which can be, and often is, disconnected from God or religion.  In fact, as our culture has veered further from the practice of orthodox religion, it’s fascination with spiritual things has only seemed to grow.  Palm Readers and Wiccans can accurately be described as “spiritual”.


My interest in discussing these things is not to settle on what we need to call ourselves, it is to come to a clearer understanding of who were are meant to be.  My concern is that our acceptance of these monikers can subtly distort our sense of purpose and identity.  As much as these particular terms fail to encompass that personage, each one can be an element of the character.


We are definitely called to be “believers”, but that must extend beyond simply believing that there is a God.  Within the Christian paradigm, this term refers to one who believes that Jesus was the Son of God, who became a man, and who died for our sins.  Through the gospels, we are introduced to Jesus, and we learn of God’s plan to reconcile man to Himself, and to become an active part of our daily lives.  If we choose to accept His invitation, and to put our trust in Him, we become “people of faith”.


But the scripture also tells us that unless our faith spurs us to action, it is a dead thing.  So genuine faith requires a response to God and to His purposes; and that response is generally viewed as religious activity or religion.  And while acting on our faith is essential, we must understand that our religion is not sacred, it is our connection to God that is sacred.  Our religion is only valuable to the extent that it enhances that relationship.  Jesus warned His followers that not everyone involved in religious activity would enter the Kingdom of heaven, and His strongest rebukes were aimed at the religious people of His day.  We were never meant to simply pursue righteousness, because only Jesus lived a truly righteous life.  He fulfilled those requirements, and we are supposed to be pursuing Him.


He explained to His disciples that His sheep know His voice; that they listen, and they follow.  To that end, He gave us the gift of His Holy Spirit, to guide and empower us on the journey.  Interacting with His Spirit requires us to tap into the “spiritual” part of our being, and opens the door for a genuine and dynamic relationship with the Living God.  This relationship is not only meant to transform our lives, it is ultimately meant to transform us.


Despite the beauty and perfection of this plan, which literally pushed open the gates of heaven, the scripture tells us that “few find it”.  Our human nature causes us to stop short, and to rationalize that our religious activity will be good enough to ensure our spot in heaven.  But even if that were true, the general lack of transformation in our lives, and in our character, thwarts God’s plan for His children to become “salt and light” to a lost and dying world.  The scripture tells us that “creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed” and considering the spiritual condition of our world, I’ve no doubt that is true.  So maybe, instead of spending time lamenting the advancing darkness, or beating our chests about our dwindling status within the culture, we should be focused on growing beyond our identity as “religious” people, “spiritual” people, or “people of faith”, and stepping into our role as “sons of God”.

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