Do You Have A Living Faith?

Is your religion inclusive or exclusive? Does your spirituality draw people into your personal circle or put them on the outside? It seems that we have reached a crossroads where people are deciding what role religion will play in their lives. Do they want to become more spiritual or more religious?

Traditionally, religion represents a set of beliefs, doctrines, and creeds housed within an organization. We know this as the denominations and major faith belief systems that currently exist in our world. Being religious could mean that you carefully adhere to whatever set of beliefs the organization you belong to upholds. It is also likely that you will have a tendency to think that your religion is the only one with the Truth.

Being very religious often leads to being very exclusive. The religion didn’t start out to be exclusive, but as it became more defined and grew it sort of folded in upon itself, becoming self-protective and self-preserving. The members can be compared to a social club or an elitist group. You only get in if you meet certain qualifications and believe identically to its current members.

Spirituality can be defined as someone who is devoted to spiritual advancement. Their desire and purpose in life is to have more of the Spirit living, working, and empowering their lives. You find spiritual people in all faith systems and walks of life. You also find them in many denominations or religions. Spiritual pursuits always bring about more inclusiveness.

When you look at the life of Jesus, a radical Jewish reformer, he spent his time upsetting the religious status quo of the day. He was criticized because of his inclusive nature. You could find him eating with tax collectors, the lowest of the low in his day, or hanging out with other questionable people—prostitutes, pub owners, rich people, lepers, Samaritans, and Pharisees. He would talk to anyone. He was the model of inclusiveness.

Somewhere along the way, Christianity, to name one belief system, has gotten off the track. What started out as modeling its existence after Christ has forgotten some of the most basic teachings of Christ. It has become exclusive instead of being the model and example of inclusiveness.

This is why personal spiritual growth and development is so critical to the future of the church as we know it. It will only change and grow as we individually grow and change. It is easy to decry the problems in the church and leave it to its own demise, but in reality it is composed of people just like you and me. When I change my level of spiritual commitment and growth, the church inevitably changes with me.

I have spoken with many who have experienced difficult life changes and their first instinct is to leave the church because of the criticism and exclusive thinking that they find there. Granted those attitudes exist. I have personally experienced their negative power. But if people don’t stay and become a witness to the power of God’s amazing, healing love, then the church remains blind to the inclusive power of Spirit.

It is impossible to deny the power of personal witness. As our spiritual commitment and practice grows, the transformative power of the Spirit is impossible to deny. It regenerates not only oneself, but also the church as a whole.

What religion across the world is hungry for, what it needs more than anything else, are members who are Spirit-filled. The Spirit is the source of love. The scriptures all reassure us that God is Love. When we are filled with that Spirit we are changed from exclusive, self-centered thinking and being, to inclusive, love-centered Being and doing.

If our religion makes us think that we are better than others, then we can be certain that we have not yet responded to the deeper meaning of every religion—to become transformed. A deeper spirituality is needed in order to make a difference in the world. Love reaches out to all for what affects you also affects me. We are truly one.

The purpose then of spirituality is to make us one. Jesus has a beautiful prayer in the book of John that says it all, “I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, and I am in you. And may they be in us so the world will believe you sent me.” My prayer is that we will all grow together—that we may be joined with a living faith—fragrant with the beauty of love.