Recently I was dialoguing online with an old friend. The conversation took on a context of speaking about 'the religious' people and how they are sometimes offended by the 'non-traditional' people. There were a couple of things written that made me think. One comment was about a 'religious spirit'. Another comment was 'being religious about not being religious'. What needs to be addressed is what religion is thought to be, what religion really is in God's perspective and what we as believers really need to be concerned with regarding religion.
The fact is that there are many religions in the world. So really, what is religion? A definition of 'religion' is "a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, esp. when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.
2. a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects: the Christian religion; the Buddhist religion.' The second part of the definition of 'religion' is critical as it contains the phrase 'as agreed upon by a number of persons or sects...". In reality, when the 'non-traditional' people all get together and agree to either practice or not practice certain 'traditional religious' activities, then they, in essence are being just as religious as the 'religious' people. Get it? While the religious and non-traditionals fight over what their preferences are in style, they forget how much they have in common in their devotion to the God they love. Westernized Christianity has not helped this schism as it has caused 'brands' of Christianity that taste good to some and not so good to others. This leads to what one of my former college mates feciciously reffered to as the church 'franchise'.
So what does God think about religion? Surely he has weighed in on the subject.
Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.
There are really two types of religion or religious activity. Religion is either pure and undefiled before God and religion that is impure and defiled before God. James explicitly and simply explains it. The kind of religious activity that is pure and undefiled before God involves caring for those who cannot necessarily care for themselves and to keep oneself unstained from the world. This religion that pleases God isn't simply a liberal theological position that teaches us to tolerate, reach out and care for all, nor is a religion of spiritual segregation. It's a 'salt and light' religion. It's a religion of touching human needs with our hands while God touches our impure hearts with his grace. It's a religion where we don't help people in need to feel good, rather we help them because our hearts have been made right by God.
So whether you brand yourself as 'religious' or 'non-traditional' be aware of one thing for sure...God doesn't give a rip about what you do in the name of (insert your church name here). He cares that you care about what he cares about.