Practical Religion

RECENTLY I saw a television interview with a well-known evangelist. The interviewer, who usually chats with show-business personalities and reports on their latest projects, didn't seem at home with this assignment. As I was watching, I was reminded of the fact that many people think of religion as something almost totally separate from day-to-day life, in a world of its own. Maybe we ourselves have tended to think that there are those who specialize in religious matters, while the vast majority live in the ``real'' world of secular concerns. Yet doesn't the Bible tell us about the practicality of true religion for all of us? Worship of God isn't something restricted to particular people or confined to a certain day of the week. It's a way of life that provides healing and protection, that enables us all to work out our salvation.

``The things of the Spirit,'' to use St. Paul's words from the book of Romans, pertain to each of us. That's because we have a direct relationship to our creator, with the one God, divine Spirit. God is our provider and preserver. He's the eternal source of all that we are or can ever truly have. He made us in His image -- as His perfect spiritual offspring. This is our true selfhood, totally dependent on God and inseparable from Him. As the Psalmist sang, ``Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.''

But it appears that we're pretty much physical personalities, struggling on our own separate from God. We're inclined to focus on worldly matters rather than on God, because to a materialistic perspective it seems as though He has little relationship to our happiness or well-being.

In order to see more clearly the reality of God's care and our own true selfhood, we need to turn away, not from the world but from the empty, worldly thinking that worships personality, that exalts physicality, that condones sensualism, that fosters addiction. Though such thinking is pervasive, it's really a dead end. ``To be spiritually minded is life and peace,'' Paul told the Romans. And that promise applies to each of us.

Why do we divide life into the secular and religious -- and then, perhaps, ignore the latter altogether? Maybe it's because we need to learn to see the spiritual dimension as presenting the actual truth of existence, which brings healing to our lives.

Christ Jesus taught his disciples, as the book of John records, ``If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.'' To know the truth in prayer -- actually to glimpse that God is the one supreme governing power, who gives only good, and that our genuine being is His perfect spiritual image -- is not a privilege reserved for only a few. We all have the opportunity to follow the Way-shower's teachings, however modest the results of our efforts. We can find religion a practical healing influence in our lives today.

Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, writes in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, ``The epoch approaches when the understanding of the truth of being will be the basis of true religion.'' And she says: ``Sometime we shall learn how Spirit, the great architect, has created men and women in Science. We ought to weary of the fleeting and false and to cherish nothing which hinders our highest selfhood.''

The spirituality that true religion fosters isn't something otherworldly. It's not an abstraction or form of wishful thinking. It's the means by which we can prove God's power in our lives. It's the practical means by which we can work out our salvation.

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