What is the opposite of religion?
I have been enjoying making some spaces in a busy day to do something like going for a short walk or doing a little gardening or ‘just’ tidying up. Some would call that “Doing nothing!”
It is liberating to ignore the growing “To Do” list for a little and do a bit of ‘nothing,’ and it is interesting how often it naturally leads to prayer and listening to God.
There is something in human nature that makes people want to be busy. People can even be busy trying to get themselves closer to God. It seems on the face of it a good thing to do, but if it is us trying to get closer by our own efforts then it is just religion.
Religion is about self help, independently trying to do, not do or say something that will have spiritual effect. It seems so spiritual but it is the opposite, as Paul points out in several places in his letters, particularly in Galatians.
Religion is a curse. It makes people think they can come to God in some other way than simply relying on Jesus, who is the Way. That is why there is so much in the Old Testament law and history about God’s people not behaving like the nations around them. Sadly they often did! And we face the same temptations to be busy trying to get ourselves to God.
The opposite of religion is not to do nothing and passively wait for God to do everything. It is to co-operate with the Holy Spirit.
Some of the things we do or don’t do might look the same on the outside (taking time to pray, fast, sing worship, care for the poor, etc.). However they are motivated by love for Him in response to His amazing love for us. When we ask to be filled again by the Spirit’s power we find we have His strength and spiritual power in us to do them.
In 1 Timothy 4:1-5 Paul explains how deceitful spirits tempt some to depart from faith by being religious about things God created. Being “super-spiritual” might look good but is just religion. Instead, we can enjoy what God has created. Marriage and foods are mentioned specifically in verse 3. But we could add so many other things such as friendship, enjoying the countryside or parks, playing games, physical exercise, music, artworks……
“Nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.”
Nothing. Nothing God has made is to be rejected.
Everything God made is capable of being holy if we live prayerfully, in conversation with Him and listening to His word (not just the Bible, though that is the test for everything else we think we hear).
Everything we touch with religion is tainted. Everything we touch with prayer and thanksgiving is holy.
So a “quiet time” with God does not just have to be in a quiet room focused on reading and praying. In fact a quiet time is not limited to a period of time at the start of a day. It can be in any place we are enjoying who He is and what He has made.
All of life can be holy.