I go to the YMCA several times a week to swim and to connect with the philosophies and theologies of the men. I hear a lot of, “how ‘bout ‘dem Packers.” However today is Martin Luther King’s birthday or Holiday. Remember, that word comes from Holy day. I heard a little bit of the ‘I have a dream speech.’ But I heard some comments about spirituality versus religion too. One guy said something like “Religion is for those who have fear going to hell and spirituality is for those who have seen hell.” Wow, there is some truth in that. Religion is for a community of believers and is manmade. Our spirituality is our essence from God, our center, and our eternal nature.
I for one am not religious, even though I am an ordained minister of the gospel. I find the 3,000 plus denominations of Christianity as a stick in the eye of God. Jesus Christ said that there should be one holy catholic or universal church, not Roman, but all believers meeting in community wherever. Then came the Reformation led by Martin Luther in 1517. This schism from Roman Catholicism brought a movement based on a different commentary of the theology of “good works.” Christianity is the only religion wherein God reaches down to us, not us trying to reach up to Him. God Himself did the work for us on the cross to overcome our sins and schism from God. Ephesians 2:8 says, “For it is by grace you were saved, through faith-and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-not of works, so that no one can boast.” God has done the work and has prepared work in advance for those who would believe it to do. This is about ‘Sola Scriptura,’ or Scripture alone. It is the living and dynamic word of God directing us.
But religion would apply its own manmade interpretations to both Scripture and how, when, where and by whom it would be applied. Over the last 200 years, primarily in America, has come the proliferation of denominations, I believe often because of some man or men’s personal opinion. I do not believe this pleasing to God. I have detractors on this thought who believe that God likes it as it takes out the gospel. However, I believe it divides and brings differences in interpretation that do not bring community in Christ, but diversion and division. My friend’s thoughts are that at least they are getting to some church.
I find that the truth is in God’s Word, the Bible, not in sacraments or religious ceremonies or dogma. There is a guidebook in the Bible for dealing with all circumstances and trials. Interestingly, my YMCA friend’s thought about our spirit lives potentially becoming more alive when we have trials or go through hell so to speak rings true to me too. You have heard the thought that there are “no atheists in foxholes?” I do indeed believe that, as much as I do not believe that there are really atheists. It seems to me that they are folks who have turned to themselves to deal or have control in life. Many have the coffee mug like one of my secretaries once had stating, Life is a bowl of crap (….) and then you die. Life is indeed hard, yet God is good, as you trust in Him. Then why are there murders, illnesses, fires, and deaths? Because we live in a post-Eden world gone chaotic by man’s disobedience and choices. I know that I have many turning off now saying they don’t deserve it. Well we deserve much worse because of our behavior.
Religion will not solve these things. Our spiritual lives will not solve them either, but will give us a place and person in whom to put our trust when the wheels are falling off. “You will keep in perfect peace whose mind is steadfast, because they trust in You” (Isaiah 26:3). Peace is hard to find when we are going through “hell.” But that is when we need it most. James 1:2-4 says, “Consider it pure joy when you come into diverse trials, because the testing of your faith develops perseverance. And perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.” This is a very hard verse and one that non-believing friends of mine laugh off as absurd. It is a spiritually discerned verse. This one requires us to have faith in asking God for wisdom, which the next verse says He will give generously, “if you don’t doubt.” Why, because then he says you will be like a wave blown around by the wind. It may be hard but I pray to keep my center during hardship. “And the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Crist, after you have suffered a little while, will Himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast” (1 Peter 4:10). This is a promise, one in which even hell cannot overcome.
So, the locker room banter continues. And sure there are comments like the one’s taken out of context by newspapers during the last campaign. By themselves they are ugly, but in context of the whole, they are not very meaningful. I look at total character if I can. I cannot judge motivation like the news people continually do, no one can. I try to look at the “whole counsel of God” in the Bible.
How is your locker room theology doing? Are you above repute, or are you still throwing those “Hail Mary’s” on forth and 25? It’s OK to be a Monday morning quarterback, we all are. But look inside and see if your motives are good. Are you angry, feeling mistreated or just afraid the world is going to hell because it is not the way you want it? The truth is that it is, and the answer is that there is truth outside the locker room. Look for it, as it is not illusive.