I always hear a lot of criticism of ‘organized religion’… sometimes I too am a critic. But one thing that just never rings true to me is the statement, “my religion (or faith) is completely personal and individual”. Many people say it, and sure… we have our own take on things, our own experiences, and our own goals when it comes to the spiritual life, but to say we ‘go it alone’ is either misrepresented… or just plain mistaken.
As human beings we are social, communal, familial… we are defined, shaped, and encouraged by our relationships, our social connections… those whom we love and are loved by us. I can think of countless times in which I was inspired to be better than I could ever be… times in which I was lifted out of impossible depths… times in which I was sternly corrected, by those with whom I was in relationship. To say, “my religion (or faith) is completely personal and individual” is to say “I haven’t brought my religion (or faith) to those I love and admire”, or, in other words, I haven’t made a claim or commitment about my spirituality.
In Acts 2 we read about the life of the first believers in Jesus. Everything was defined by their communal relationships. They were not only inspired by one another, but also challenged and held accountable. There was no hiding behind ‘a personal and individual’ concoction of beliefs. They lived their faith… and together their faith lived and thrived.
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. (Acts 2:42-47)
Today, I challenge everyone to talk faith with those you love… ‘hash it out’, ‘lay it down’, make a claim’, and ‘take a risk’. Cooperate with someone you trust in a spiritual matter. These are necessary steps to finding peace and making lasting strides towards the person of faith you were meant to be.