There was a time when I believed in a god. I believed that there was more than one way to get to heaven (or paradise as I used to think of it) and that just simply the belief that a god exists is what makes a person spiritual. It was only when Christians began to talk about this One True God that I would deem that to be religious. I didn’t know who Jesus was–I thought He and God were separate. When I thought of religion I thought of rules, something mandatory that if you didn’t follow then you were wrong, but spirituality as free will—being free to live, believe and do as you please without someone breathing down your neck about how out of line you are.
As a result I grew to hate the church and everything to do with it. I respected it because of my grandmother who was devoted to serving the Lord, but I just couldn’t get with it. I wanted nothing to do with that “Jesus stuff.”
Then as I got older, I found myself going on to accept the very One I rejected earlier in my life.
Upon making that transition, what I have grown to see now is that someone who’s religious can be very stuck on rules and traditions, things that are either misinterpretations of scripture or aren’t even backed anywhere in scripture. For the believer who’s spiritual, however, they look to Christ and His Word for instruction. As they seek Him, they allow their relationship with Him to develop naturally. Someone who is spiritual won’t say you’re in error because you didn’t do something the way they would’ve done it. They encourage you to do it the way God is leading you to do it and to make sure that it lines up with His Word. (If it’s not lining up, then it didn’t come from Him and you shouldn’t do it.)
Now on to this point I’m trying to make.
Saying I love Jesus doesn’t make me religious, because if you have a true understanding of who Jesus is, He’s not some ordinary man. He’s God. He’s a spiritual being, and therefore to serve Him and live for Him you have to actually take on a spiritual mindset rather than a religious one. If we’re being honest, religion can tend to be on the carnal side of things. I was there myself. I was studying His Word on a daily basis, reading several chapters at a time, praying, going to church faithfully, all that,
But I was stuck spiritually because I didn’t understand that living for Christ isn’t a routine or a to-do list. It’s about earnestly seeking Him because you honestly have a desire to. Religion says if I do all these things then I’m good whereas spirituality says, yeah, doing all that stuff is necessary in helping your development and growth but it’s all about the heart. It goes beyond what you do; it reaches to what’s deep down inside of you. So don’t think I’m saying it’s not necessary for you to go to church, to read your Bible, attend bible studies because that stuff is needed but it’s only just scratching the surface. For the religious person, this is a struggle to understand—I know that from first hand experience. Truthfully I’m still making that transformation in some areas of my life, because I’m not there yet but I’ve come a long way from where I was.
I don’t claim a denomination because while I am member of a protestant church (Church of God in Christ or COGIC,) too many put emphasis on their denomination rather than in the One who came for us. Yes, if you ask me what denomination I am, I will say COGIC or Protestant, but it doesn’t make me feel less uneasy. If a person follows the Word of God and serves the Lord with all their heart, then it really doesn’t matter what denomination they are. As you may have heard said, “Jesus did not come for religion. He came for relationship.” It’s important to have structure for sure. God is all about order, “For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.” (I Corinthians 14:33 KJV) However, your relationship with God is personal—what works for you in your relationship may not work so well for someone else. When I study, I wait and listen for His voice to tell me what to study, whereas other people may like doing devotionals. Either way, we’re both studying and drawing closer to Him. In a way, spirituality means I take Christ and use Him as my foundation. He is my religion, He is my denomination and His Word points me towards Him.
Religion…even the word itself stirs up all kinds of emotions in people, but we have to take the time to understand the difference between the two: religious and spiritual.
I get it. Sometimes as believers we don’t like to make a fuss or don’t want to ruffle any feathers. We understand we’ll be persecuted for His name’s sake, but when it comes down to it we have times where we try to hide. I remember very recently attending a dinner, and while silently praying over my food, I pretended I was fixing something on my jacket to keep attention off myself. It wasn’t until after I did it that I realized it was time for a heart check. Why should I have to hide my beliefs to make other people feel comfortable?
And that’s partly the inspiration for this piece. I’m writing about this because I’m tired of having to tiptoe or walk on eggshells when it comes to my God. I love Jesus, simple as that, and it doesn’t make me super religious, or perfect, or whatever other labels that are usually tacked on. It genuinely means the opposite. If you choose to hate me because of that, then fine. I used to hate people who believed in Jesus too so I can empathize, but it’s not going to make me stop living for Him.
We all have to make choices in life. I’m just asking that you are respectful of my choice just as I will respect yours.
And before you go there—I don’t want to hear about any self-proclaimed Christians who clearly do not follow this principle and live blaring hypocritical or contradictory lives. Grouping us all together is just as bad as people who categorize or stereotype an entire race, saying that they’re all the same. You know good and well that’s not true, just as it’s not true that every person who doesn’t believe hates believers.
The truth is, you won’t ever really understand the difference between being spiritual and being religious until you have faith for yourself. Until I accepted Christ, I didn’t get it, but now…