Last time, in this space, I mentioned that, so far from “being spiritual, not religious”, I discovered that religion is not a bad thing but a good thing and even a biblical thing.
James, for instance, remarks:
If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, his religion is vain. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained by the world. (Jas 1:26–27)
In other words, the problem is not religion but those who “make a pretense of religion but deny its power” (2 Tm 3:5). Religion, I learned, derives from the Latin “religare” meaning “obligation, bond, reverence.” In other words, it refers to our bond of sacred kinship to God and to neighbour. What kind of bond is that? Love of God and neighbour. All the stuff we talked about as the opposite of religion turned out be what the word religion meant. When we perform acts of worship to God and acts of love toward our neighbor, we are living out what the New Testament means by loving the Lord with all your heart, mind, soul and strength and loving your neighbour as yourself. That is truly living a relationship.