The Contrast Between Religion and Spirit
God is Spirit and not religion. Spirituality is the life in something. Without it the practice (of religion) is not really valid. Religious practices were intended to be helpful in accessing spirit, but must not become an end in themselves.
People get process-orientated and lose sight of the goal. This is true both in the church and in the business world. In church there is the added element of fear that if we get the process wrong we might be in eternal trouble.
Architecture (e.g. cathedrals), music and art can bring a sense of awe that takes you beyond yourself to something more. But they must never be themselves identified with God or God’s nature.
The experience of the Holy Spirit is the distinctive feature of Christianity. The Spirit enables people to communicate with God spirit to spirit – even beyond mind and understanding. (See, for example, Speaking in Tongues).
Are Christians more loved by God than other people? What is distinctive to you about being a Christian?
God loves everybody; but as a Christian I appreciate that God loves me – and I am to tell other people this. Be clear then what God means to you.
Being Christian gives us a hope beyond this life.
God doesn’t love Christians more. All sorts of people can be good inside and do good and kind things. So what about faith in Jesus? How is that important?
It’s how we do things that’s distinctive – in love and in forgiveness: God is in us and through us.
People can be led to good deeds by conscience, but when you know and love God you know (and you hope people recognise) that it’s God working in you.
A sense of God’s calling helps you avoid getting resentful. Corrie Ten Boom always had an underlying joy that God would provide – even in times of great suffering. Perhaps other people don’t have that reassurance that God is there – even in death. It’s said that Muslims, even if they have done all the required processes, still fear that Allah may reject them.
There are also people of no religious faith who respond with kindness and goodness, and the Matt 25 parable about the sheep and the goats seems to suggest that compassion and kindness is the final criterion of judgement for all people. Again how do we link that to a need for religious faith (in Jesus)?
See also the parable of the wheat and the weeds. The owner says don’t pull out the weeds because it might harm the plant. You don’t know in the end what God sees and should not judge people because they are not “one of us”.
On the other hand as Christians we can be inspired by Jesus and enjoy the relationship we can have, and boast of a distinctive motivation for action. Yet sometimes the outward action is sadly lacking. It can be all in the head. The fruit of the Spirit comes out from within us.
If you don’t belong to God through religion, then how do you belong to God?
The model of family is helpful. Parents love their children for what they are. Yet through the years the relationship with parents deepens as the child interacts with the parents. So God loves all his children but when his children respond to God they enter into a deeper relationship: which is God’s goal. Love is not one-sided – we have to be responsive.
We also need to convince other people that interacting with God is the most wonderful thing in life. Some of God’s children, through whatever reason or experience, have rejected the God-package. We should find out where people are by respectfully listening to them and finding points of commonality rather than confronting them with dogma. We need to demonstrate our relationship with God through doing love.
All the pictures of spirit are flowing – water, wind, fire, etc. God who is spirit is always moving us on. God can’t be contained and we should never be satisfied or complacent. How can we communicate what makes God real for us?