You've probably heard it; I know I have. "I love Jesus, but I am not religious." Sometimes, "I am very spiritual, but I don't practice any religion."
Wait. Before you call these people out for their appalling ignorance, think about what they are really trying to tell you.
"I love Jesus, but I am not religious." This is to say I believe in Jesus but I don't want to practice any system that suggests that I am other than my own person. I don't want others to think I might be different from them in some way. I can love Jesus and still fit in with the worldly crowd.
A religion is a system of belief, a set of doctrines or tenets to which one subscribes.
"I am very spiritual, but I don't practice any religion." Similar to the above, the speaker wants others to know that s/he is "deeper" than the appearance presented to the world. I want to look like, speak like, act like the world, but deep down I am really special. The problem here is that no matter what system one chooses to explore "spirituality," s/he is practicing a religion (system of belief.) In a nutshell, it is possible to be religious without being spiritual, but it is impossible to be spiritual without being religious.
Either statement makes me sad for the speaker. I have heard it even within the walls of the church building; I have heard it from the lips of a "minister."
"Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To
visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep
himself unspotted from the world." --James 1:27 (KJV)
"Do you love me?" Jesus asked. "Feed my sheep." (John 21)
"Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.
Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven." --Matthew 7:19-21 (KJV)
Assignment: Read the entire seventh chapter of Matthew.