Sunday Morning Musings: Earlier this week I was talking to a person about some work I am having done around my house. As most conversations end up, because of my calling as a minster of religion, we got to talking “shop” – mine not his. (aside: I find it truly amazing how often the “unchurched” wish to talk about the church and religion.)
One of the many aspects we discussed had to do with what this person referred to as ‘Christian’ acts performed by the ‘unchristian’ ( or as some Christians might refer to them – “the great unwashed”). For clarification purposes he explained to me that he knows many folks that would not call themselves “Christian” but who are still loving, caring and generous people. The discussion went so far as to include other world religions in that many people claim to have no religious affiliation but still adhere to or live out the “golden rule” and the laws about loving “God” and one’s neighbour.
On the opposite side of this coin, the comment was made that people who claim even strong religious connections do not live them. An example he gave me concerned those who attend church regularly but have stated that they do so for business purposes (to make connections). He spoke about the larger scale where even wars were fought for religious reasons. (I wanted to interject that religions don’t cause wars, rather people do, but did not, so as not to interrupt him.)
Our conversation made me think of a quote I had read offered by the mystic Matthew Fox who is reported to have said: “Religion is not necessary but spirituality is.” I would have to agree with him but with the caveat that as a choice, good and proper understandings of religion are okay and even beneficial.
Too often we interchange the words “religious” with “spirituality”, sometimes at our own peril. I call myself a “Christian” because of a choice I made long ago. Back then it was pretty much the only religion there was in my little part of the world. As my world has grown, I remained following The Way of Christ, this Christian way. However, I have also learned along the way that my views are not the only views and what seems right for me, doesn’t have to apply to everyone. I say that knowing that I am in direct opposition to some in my own tradition. Here I would be quoted John 14, verse 6: “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’ (New Revised Standard Version). Were I inclined to argue further I might quote John 3:16 and emphasis the words “God so loved the world”.
To take either of these verses at face value could eliminate all others from ‘coming to the Father’, but that is not what I believe following the Christ was or is all about. It is not mine or anyone else’s task to convert anyone to Jesus. Rather, it is our responsibility to live and love as we are loved (like Jesus did). He didn’t die that I might “live” somewhere in the great beyond. He lived showing me how to live here and now. Jesus lived showing the true nature of God which is love for all of creation.
Living love is what it means to be a spiritual person. I don’t have to belong to any religion to do that. But belonging means something else too. Everyone needs a community of loving people (like-minded people if the sameness doesn’t involve exclusion and narrow thinking which often results in various forms of abuse (which also means abusing the Bible to make our point).
God is Spirit. We are spiritual. Now we only need to learn how to live it.