17 September 2010

Question of the Week:
Religion or Spirituality?

by Anne Lang Bundy

What is the difference between religion and spirituality?
~ Renatta, Michigan

Good question! Especially because when being religious is compared to having relationship with God, religion is worthless. But when placed next to spirituality, religion is absolutely necessary.

Worthless religion is religion narrowly defined by law or doctrine. It puts emphasis on good works or obedience to law to make a person righteous. People who pride themselves on how well their actions conform to the standards of their religion—especially when they look down on those who they feel do not conform—are also called pharisaical, after the Pharisees of Jesus' time.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ calls people everywhere to give up any attempt at being made righteous by any religion. Every person is guilty of sin and condemned to eternal death. The payment required for sin is death, not good works. (A death row inmate cannot compensate for his crime with community service.) As the only Man to never sin, Jesus is the only Person Who did not need to pay the death penalty for Himself. He was therefore able to pay the death penalty for us, and He did so by dying on the cross. (He stepped into our place before the Executioner.)

The blood of Jesus Christ is the only acceptable compensation for our sin, no matter how much good we do.

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. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified [made righteous], and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.
~ Romans 10:9-10 (NIV)

To believe God raised Jesus is to believe in His death. To declare Jesus as Lord is to be purchased with His blood and belong to Him, to then be made righteous and repent of the sin which once condemned us, and to receive His Holy Spirit. Salvation includes the whole package.

Once saved, good works can't make us more righteous, and failure to do good works won't make us less righteous. Religion is no longer the law which condemns us, but the truth which defines our righteousness and faith.

Spirituality is uniting our will to the Holy Spirit of God so He might work into our lives His fruit: love, joy, peace, patient longsuffering, active and merciful kindness, goodness (godliness), faith-filled faithfulness, meek and humble gentleness, and temperate self-control. Again, it is an entire package, not pick and choose. Spirituality includes expressing such fruit with good works.

For those who belong to Jesus, religion might be called the foundation and framing, and spirituality the roof, floor and walls. The former is necessary for support, but will soon prove of little purpose unless covered with the latter. And the latter doesn't hold up well without the support of the former.

© 2010 Anne Lang Bundy
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  1. Great exploration and definition, Anne. I appreciate these great thoughts.

  2. Thank you for making it clear. Doctrine and relationship, I've always felt, go hand in hand. Excellent post.

  3. Jason ~
    T. Anne ~
    Denise ~

    Being out of town last weekend delayed my response. Your comments are appreciated.