The problem with “Spiritual but not Religious”
For the next few months I’m going to pause the Letters to my Children and instead pen letters to people who have walked away from Jesus and His church. While these letters are written to a generic audience of people who have left the church, most will be written with a particular person in mind…in hopes that they will think seriously about where they stand.
Dear friend, I send you warm greetings from Franklin, TN. I hope this letter finds you well.
Congratulations on your recent marriage. I hope that you have a lifelong marriage filled with joy and happiness. I have been thinking a great deal about what you said: “I’m spiritual but just not religious. I do not believe in organized worship.”
You complained that religion just leads to problems over money, power, and egos. While some of your frustration may be correct in many denominations, the church that Jesus founded was never meant to be about any of that. It was always and will always be about Him.
Which is why I’m writing you today.
Imagine me inviting you on a wonderful vacation—four star hotels, delicious food, and outstanding weather. I tell you to pack a bag for several weeks. But then I add: “Yes, I want you to come, just not your wife?” How would you feel? I suspect you would eventually tell me: “No thanks. If my wife can’t go then I’m not interested.” In fact, you might find yourself upset with me for singling out your wife and saying she was not invited. After all, this is the woman you just vowed your love to!
I suspect this is similar to how Jesus feels every time He hears someone say they are spiritual but they don’t want the church. Read John 3:16 again—yes, I know you’ve probably heard it a million times, but I want you to read it in the context of love: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
Now, with that thought in mind flip over and read, Ephesians 5:21-26: “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word.”
The Bible describes the church as the bride of Christ. In fact, in Revelation 19:7-9 it talks specifically about Jesus coming back to claim His bride, the church. “Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready. And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. Then he said to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!’” And he said to me, ‘These are the true sayings of God.’”
If the church is the bride of Jesus, then basically what you are saying is: “I’ll take Jesus, but I don’t want His bride.” How do you think that makes Jesus feel for you to reject His bride?
Furthermore, how do you harmonize your ideology with the John 14:15 where Jesus says, “If you love Me, keep My commandments”? If you do your own thing are you really keeping the commandments of Christ? Do you remember the scene when Jesus was being tempted by Satan? One of the things Satan tried to get Jesus to do was worship him. Notice the way Jesus responded: “And Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Get behind Me, Satan! For it is written, “You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.”’” (Luke 4:8).
Jesus knew the importance and power of worshipping God. I realize “I’m spiritual but just not religious” is a popular stance these days, but is it possible you are avoiding religion because it requires time and energy? Is it possible that your ego is interfering? Is it possible you do not want to be accountable to anyone? Is it possible that by avoiding organized religion you can also avoid sacrificing your time for things like giving to the poor, helping the needy, building up your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ? Is it possible that deep down you do not want to be reminded of Biblical morals?
I hope you will think on these things.
Until next time, I continue to pray for you.