I apologize that it has been more than a few weeks since I have written my "weekly" blog. I have been occupied with travel, conferences, and trainings. I am just now getting back into the "normal" routine.
As I have traveled I have had opportunity to interact with folks outside my ordinary circles, and I am amazed by what I am finding. There seems to be real interest in things spiritual, but not as much interest in anything religious.
This confirms some recent findings from a religious assessment conducted by our local Air Guard unit. About 20% of the respondents chose "No particular religion" to be printed on their "dog tags".
In other places this has been referred to as they are "spiritual but not religious".
So how should we, as followers of Jesus, respond to this reality?
I have done a lot of reflection on that question over the past several weeks and months, and I would like to share with you my thoughts.
First, we should not be afraid. Anyone who is interested in entering into a spiritual conversation is a friend and is presenting an opportunity for us to share the hope we have (see I Peter 3:15). If we are not prepared to "give an answer to anyone who asks" then we have work to do.
Second, I have considered the reverse and have found it more devastating. In other words, would we rather have people identify as "religious but not spiritual"? Religion devoid of God's Spirit damages our souls and the souls of others.
Consider Jesus' words to the Pharisees and Teachers of the Law from His time:
"Woe to you, Teachers of the Law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men's faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.
Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are."
(Matthew 23:13, 15; NIV)
It seems that according to Jesus, being "religious but not spiritual" is most devastating and might be the quickest pathway to hell.
Finally, as I have read Jesus' words and considered them over time, I am becoming more and more convinced that Jesus was "spiritual but not religious". It seems he reserved His harshest words for the leaders of the established religion. And constantly Jesus was not calling people to a system of belief or a program, rather Jesus called people to Himself.
"I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6)
Similarly, the apostle Paul picks up on this same invitation, and issued it again.
"If you confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." (Romans 10:9)
Do not get me wrong. I am not opposed to Christian religion. I myself am a practitioner and a teacher within a solidly historical and Biblical Christian tradition. Nevertheless, my point is that if we hope to connect this generation to the truth, then we must be willing to listen to what they are really saying, agree where agreement is prudent, and offer them Jesus, the living Lord, the fullest revelation of the triune, eternal, personal Creator God. For it is only through faith in Jesus that anyone can be saved.
So what do you think? Do you have thoughts about spirituality and religion? If so, I invite you to share them here, as we continue to journey together along the Way ...