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Lost Crusader #228 Pure Religion

“If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain. Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.”

James 1:26-27


The word “religion” means a system of beliefs and practices. James, rightly, does not use the word to describe a church or a handed-down measure of conformity issued by an organization. That’s because, as defined, religion calls for the development of a personal practice. Christianity is a religion in the same way music is art. It is a broad umbrella under which there are many genres.


Not long after rising each morning, I make and drink coffee—I’m very religious about coffee drinking. It has nothing to do with worship, hanging out with fellow coffee drinkers, or devaluing those who do not partake. Granted, I don’t understand them, but I still value them.


The fact is everyone has a religion. Some have bothered to develop one based on thought and investigation of the truth. Others have had a ready-made one handed to them. Neither of these groups is exclusive to the world nor the church. One does not work from faith and the other from reason—both have reasons for what they believe and why they practice the things they do.


Religion is visible evidence of the values residing within a person. Jesus once told the story of two sons. Both were commanded to do a certain thing by their father. One said he would go do it but didn’t. The other said he would not go but then did. Which of them valued their father’s will the most? Values may be buried deep and require work to get them to the surface.


The sharing of common beliefs and practices within a group that the world associates with religion is rightly called a fellowship. I have been a part of Writers’ fellowship from time to time in which the only common thread was that we all wrote stories. Each one wrote different stories in different genres and with different voices. Yet we shared an hour or so every week to talk about our common “religion”.


It is popular to say, “I’m spiritual, not religious”. That such a statement is gobbledygook flies right past the speaker. Few people would deny humans are spiritual creatures; or that we have a spiritual dimension. So, to be human is to be spiritual. Likewise, humans have their own beliefs and practices, ergo a religion.

The statement, “I’m spiritual, not religious” is either parroted nonsense, thinly disguised hate speech, or a mistaken idea about the nature of the speaker’s spirituality.


The majority of those I hear utter the phrase are really referring to spiritualism, not spirituality. Spiritualism is nothing new no matter how folks today dress it up. The practice predates the writing of the Old Testament and is itself a “religion”.


Peter once instructed a crowd in Jerusalem to “repent and be converted”. To repent is to change one’s mind to “covert” is to return to God. He was urging people to rediscover and repair the break with God that took place in the Garden. Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all the things we fret over, like religion and spirituality, shall be answered for us.


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