A common excuse for not following Christ is “I’m spiritual but not religious”. Many complain about some church offense that drives them away from all churches. Instead of finding a new church, they use a past church offense to drop out altogether. They rationalize dropping out by saying “I’m spiritual, not religious.” Let’s look at what the words “religion” and “spirituality” mean through two analogies.
Think of an umbrella. Let’s say the waterproof cloth is spirituality. The frame it is stretched on is religion. If you are spiritual but not religious, then you would remove the waterproof cloth (spirituality) from the religious frame. In case, it rained on you (some evil influence) you have a reduced capability to repel it because the best you could do is drape it over your head to protect you. You would still need a hand to hold it on your head so it won’t blow off in the wind. The analogy is that spirituality loses much of its effectiveness when detached from religion, especially when under attack by evil spirituality.
What about the umbrella frame? It will not protect you from getting wet in the rain because it is only a frame. Many critics are correct when they say religion alone is just a bunch of rules and teachings. Yet these rules and teachings have a lot of important value. By itself, religion will only become a burden. Jesus argued against the Pharisaical religion because of its burden on the people.
Religion comes alive when paired with spirituality and spirituality becomes powerfully effective against evil when stretched and framed by religion. Those who want to separate spirituality from religion inflict themselves with very poor protection from spiritual evil.
An even better illustration is that of the human body. Your skeleton is religion and your flesh is spirituality. Together they form something powerful and beautiful. If you rip the bones out of your body, your flesh will collapse and others will only see your body move when your heart beats. Your spiritual body becomes powerless.
On the other hand, the bones of a body provide not only structure but also valuable protection to your body. As you learned in high school biology, bones provide immune cells to protect the body from infection. If you stop the bones from producing these cells, a person will catch an infection and die. This body example shows how important religion is to protect one’s spirituality from demonic or societal infection. Religion can be bad, but the vast majority of the time it is very good for informing us about the spiritual dangers we will experience. Read this scripture:
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
Finally, there is an assumption among many people that spirituality is always good. By that kind of thinking, Satan would be good because Satan is a spiritual being. Likewise, demons would not be considered evil. In addition, many people twist their spirituality for selfish purposes. The Bible clearly states that there is good and evil spirituality and religion is very useful for detecting which is which. Read this scripture:
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world, and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
Scripture provides teachings, rules (yes, these also), and guidelines for living a better spiritual life and preventing a bad one. To assume religion is bad is to assume the Bible is bad. Without the Bible and its teachings, people make up their own beliefs. Jesus lived his life and people wrote down the apostles’ teachings because they fought against bad religion as well as against bad spirituality.
So, can you have spirituality without religion? Of course. However, that is not what Jesus died on the cross for. His religion is found in the teachings of the Bible, and that religion guides and nurtures the spirituality you are supposed to be developing daily as his disciple.
Religion is critical to a well-developed spirituality. The Bible says so.