Currently there are a number of books out there suggesting that being ‘spiritual’ is hampered by ‘religion’. However, should we be less reticent about aspiring to what was formerly seen as one of the virtues? After all, wasn’t Jesus actually a tad religious himself?
Clearly to have been a rabbi and also frequently addressed as ‘Teacher’ (probably equivalent to being a professor) Jesus would have followed all the Jewish religious practices, both the dietary and ritualistic stuff. There’s good evidence that suggests Jesus became an expert on the law; while the religious hierarchy exclusively focused on the wording of all the laws and requirements, Jesus often caused offence by pointing out the true meaning and reasoning behind the law. It is recorded that he would have attended both the temple and the synagogue. The temple would have been a bit like attending a strictly formal and orthodox church service, and the synagogue was more informal, like a home group or café church discussion.
So can we become more Christ-like by being religious without it all being a bit too daunting?
In reality most of us are, of course, addicted to technology. We are actually pretty religious in the way we promptly respond to texts, answer emails, get glued to BBM, love contributing to Facebook and posting our pearls of wisdom on Twitter. So here’s a tip: start small, keep it simple and be creative.
Here are a couple of examples which hopefully may give some inspiration. My dad always said grace before a meal, whether it was a snack or a multi-course dinner. It didn’t matter to him whether it was just the family or with guests that didn’t share the same faith; whether it was relatively private or in a public space. Don’t get me wrong, he didn’t make a big thing of it – no shouting or TV evangelist histrionics – just bowed his head, spoke quietly and gently. And that is a simple, religious practice. I do try to follow in my dad’s footsteps, but have to confess that sometimes I’m so hungry, I forget. Regardless, I’ve found starting a meal with a grace in front of friends often yields heart-warming and surprising responses.
Here’s someone else’s creative idea. A friend of mine commutes by train to London. During the journey, she posts a tweet along the lines of ‘#trainprayer in 10mins’ which effectively asks if anyone has a personal prayer request. Folk then respond using #trainprayer, and, at the suggested time, she shoves in her ear buds and, er, prays away!
So this is about finding a way to use some of our typical routines to create a regular practice that we can realistically achieve without stressing or feeling under obligation. It doesn’t need to be a pain, although every so often a little personal discipline may be needed. Let’s think creatively about how we can be just a bit religious, utilising the technology and lifestyle we are privileged to enjoy, and continue to be salt and light.