A skeleton without a body is as dead as the human anatomy can get. Religion without genuine faith and spirituality is also lifeless. If by religion we mean a system of faith and worship but we end up adhering to the system but not the ‘faith and worship’ we will soon ‘lose’ it. This is the situation of an increasing number of youth here in Malta.
If we have to be honest maybe it is more than understandable. In some cases, the ‘system’ they grew up in at times gave them the Law but not the Lord, liturgical ritual but not worship and intimacy with God. Some sermons presented God as an oppressive presence who robs us of freedom and happiness rather than the One who can really give it to us. From this false image of God and the effect of this type of ‘religion’ we all need to be freed.
There are many who have faithfully adhered to their religious practices and principles. This is good of course but it is important to remember that true Christian faith is a primarily an adherence to God, to the Father of Jesus Christ. If going to mass, saying prayers and lighting candles are not an expression of a faith that effects our lifestyle they can even become a stumbling block. Why? Because we may be appeasing our consciences but not be living in the truth. At this point some people will jump in and begin to judge all those who seem to them to fall into this category. Not so fast. Jesus tells us a parable about a guy who goes up to the Temple in Jerusalem to pray, only to be judged by a Pharisee for seemingly not being consistent in his religious practices. Yet his was a humble prayer which God listened to: ‘Lord have mercy upon me a sinner’. Only God knows the state of some one else’s heart.
However we must not forget that there are also people who are leaving the Church, criticising her institutions and rebelling against religious teaching because in effect they are rebelling against God. They do not usually speak out against Him (though a few of them do as well) but may be practicing psychological transference. God is love and love cannot be separated from truth. Many today are not comfortable with objective and absolute truths and seek to silence them not only for themselves but for others. They have no more use for what they consider to be intolerant dogmatic beliefs and antiquated moral absolutes which impinge on their hedonistic and materialistic lifestyle. They have made up their own religion although they may call it by a different name. Amongst these people as well there are genuine seekers who may also have to lose their ‘religion’ to find their faith.
Finally for those who have experienced a spiritual awakening and a personal relationship with Jesus, continued growth is needed because it is possible to lose our vibrant faith and as St Paul warned in his letter to the Galatians, to fall back under the ‘law’. It is possible that if we do not go deeper we may remain superficial. And although we sing contemporary Christian music, go to prayer meetings and say all the right things, our heart has wondered away from God, too easily crowded out of our lives. A dynamic trust in Jesus, a life of prayer, obedience to his will, worship with others and growth in holiness is a faith that by God’s grace not only needs to be found but to be kept.