We love religious traditions but may not understand that they can restrain God and put Him (or us!) into a spiritual container. I say, “Let’s let Him, and us, out!” Of course, that won’t be possible until we understand what’s happening first! Over the following several articles, we’ll cover these things: (1) What is the Box; (2) Freedom from the Box; (3) A New World Outside Awaits! Let’s begin our journey by understanding where we are today compared to how things were or should be.
The ‘box’ is anything that keeps God’s Spirit from moving and stifles convert transformation. But imagine a world outside of a religious container where people introduced to God’s Kingdom devoted all they were and had to Him and, in return, received God’s Spirit and just lived life well. No business-minded churches. No passive congregations. No elevated roles or privileges. You were an active part of the Body of Christ, singing, teaching, leading, loving . . . or you weren’t. There were no commercial walls, human doctrines, or soul-crushing rules or punishments. The Spirit moved freely and gifted individuals to accomplish God’s good pleasure. No Old Covenant religious burdens, not even tithing (since there was no longer a Temple needing upkeep nor priests receiving a God-ordained inheritance).
Baptism was a simple pledge that resulted in the Spirit given by God, also as a pledge. Communion was table fellowship, during which converts remembered what Father and Son had done for them. Money was just collected occasionally and voluntarily to feed the hungry and care for widows, orphans, and traveling evangelists (e.g., according to Paul, Tertullian, and others). That was mostly how things were in the first century. Fast-forward, and we see a religious box taking shape that constrains to this day.
To be clear, there’s a difference between the ‘big-T’ core truths of our faith that mustn’t change and the ‘little-t’ truths of how we practice. Big-T non-negotiable things include: the Father created everything and sent the Son to redeem His creation aided by the Spirit; the Son gave that Spirit to His brothers and sisters and sent them (and still does) as partners in reconciling creation; charity and spiritual growth are mandatory. No walls here.
On the other hand, ‘little-t’ practices can erect religious barriers that keep out the pure of heart and showcase the proud. Church traditions often make a mockery of Christ’s Law of love. And the Greco-Roman one-to-many presentation in place by the fourth century can crush any potential move by the Spirit and encourage freeloaders who occupy pews but are unfruitful. The box has been built, but there’s hope!
In the following article, we’ll continue our discussion in “The God Box Part II, Freedom.” Imagine what it will take to let God and us out of the religious prison we’ve created, free the Spirit, and put the Christ-follower to work! Let’s explore that!
Blessings and peace,
Dr. Ron Braley