Religious/Spiritual Talk



Religious talk, and talk about ‘spirituality’ can be a real ‘turn-off’ to those who are listening. We tend to engage in jargon that is not only foreign to outsiders, but often rather vacuous to many inside the household of faith. There is so much religious gobbledygook sown into public discourse in our present social and political conversation that it is no wonder that it breeds so much cynicism among those who are the recipients. I remember in a session in which somebody was making a big ‘to-do’ about being ‘born again’. When the session was concluded, the Indian lady in front of me turned and asked: “OK, so she’s born again. So, what’s she good for?” Bingo!

The apostle taught us that: “The kingdom of God does not consist in talk, but in power.” (I Corinthians 4:20). I have always profited by the teaching I received from a friend, namely, that Jesus didn’t come to make us more religious but rather to make us more human. He never taught us that our ‘talk’ would persuade those with whom we came into daily contact, but that our good works and our love, and our flesh-and-blood lives as God’s new humanity people would make them curious about the source of our behavior and our ethics—our sermon on the mount incarnations would cause them to see the divine source.

I have the conviction that no matter how hostile one seems toward the Christian message, that they still have a need for a center, an authority, a creative source, a guiding line, and a final goal (even though they may vigorously deny it). So, I have in my daily discipline a couple of ‘punch-lists’ that I work through every morning. One is simply the list of the fruits of the Holy Spirit that re to be incarnated in God’s new creation people from Galatians 5: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (to which I have added long-suffering).

The other list includes my gleanings that spell out the whole radical new way of: living, thinking, behaving, hoping, conceiving, rejoicing, and being content that is the dynamic working out of God’s new humanity in us. Such people are the true missionary arm of the Holy Trinity in and through us. … And then, as Peter taught us, if men see these good works and ask the reason for such, we should be ready to give them a thoughtful and gentle answer.

Jesus didn’t come to make us more religious/spiritual, but to make us more truly human, as he has designed us to be.

Run with it!

About rthenderson

Sixty years a pastor-teacher within the Presbyterian Church. Author of several books, the latest of which are a trilogy on missional ecclesiology: ENCHANTED COMMUNITY: JOURNEY INTO THE MYSTERY OF THE CHURCH, then, REFOUNDING THE CHURCH FROM THE UNDERSIDE, then THE CHURCH AND THE RELENTLESS DARKNESS. Previous to this trilogy was A DOOR OF HOPE: SPIRITUAL CONFLICT IN PASTORAL MINISTRY, and SUBVERSIVE JESUS, RADICAL FAITH. I am a native of West Palm Beach, Florida, a graduate of Davidson College, then of Columbia and Westminster Theological Seminaries.
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One Response to Religious/Spiritual Talk

  1. Jermaine Ladd says:

    Amen! Faith without works is dead!

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