All too many people, to include myself (at times), get all fired up about the historicity of Christianity, especially concerning the nature of the One True Church. These debates, arguments, and squabbles have their rightful place. But, in light of the greater need to evangelize Jesus to the world, the greater question of what true religion really means disappears in heated rhetoric.
After all, true religion is equally elusive, and embraced, in both parties. Saints and sinners stand firm on both sides.
"Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained by the world." James 1:19-27
True religion is the balance of the horizontal and vertical beams of the Cross. Separate the beams and you would have either a vertical religion without any horizontal responsibility--spiritualism without charity, morality without compassion--or a horizontal religion without any real vertical faith--social activism, soaked in agnosticism, painted externally as Christianity.
True religion also meets in the vertical and horizontal beams of the Cross in self-sacrifice. Religion is not just Bible study, prayer, and Church worship, divided from 'everyday life.' True religion is not singing hymns at 1pm, and running people off the road at 2pm. True religion is not Sacred Scripture at 8am and pornography and masturbation at 11pm. True religion is not picketing the Planned Parenthood Center in April and voting for a Pro-Choice Politician in November. True religion is not becoming a consecrated brother or sister, then going out and rebelling against the Church.
True religion suffers along with Christ in all things.
"He who walks blamelessly and does justice...He who does these things shall never be disturbed." Psalm 15:2-5
True religion has only God for God. True religion is life lived humbly. True religion is repentant--daily. For the truly religious person realizes that the holiness that God desires of them can only come from Jesus Christ. The truly religious, therefore, takes responsibility for their actions while realizing that all goodness comes from God alone through grace.
Faith can only come from God. And 'works' are required of man in works of Love. Both represent the union of divine and human--Incarnate--in a manifestation of true religion.
"When Jesus and his disciples arrived at Bethsaida, people brought to him a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him. He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. Putting spittle on his eyes he laid his hands on the man and asked, 'Do you see anything?'” Mark 8:22-26
Finally, true religion is the exercise of getting ones hands dirty helping those in most need. It is also, simultaneously, keeping ones hands, and heart, unstained from the impurities of this fallen and lost world. It is a balancing act accomplished only in Jesus Christ.
For true religion is humbly realized one day at a time, immersed in Jesus.