|Sunset in Loose Park in Kansas City|
For freedom Christ set us free; so stand firmand do not submit again to the yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1The essence of any authentic spirituality is freedom. A forced or "complied with" spirituality is a contradiction in terms. A relationship with the Divine One can only be authentic if it proceeds from interior freedom. Otherwise, it becomes rule keeping which is always external, working on the outside rather than proceeding from the inside out.
Why then does so much religion seemed consumed with rules and rule keeping? There is a difference between spirituality and religion. Spirituality is the deep and abiding relationship between our deepest selves and whatever ultimate source of meaning is operative for us. For me that source is the Divine One. For others it might that as well or perhaps ideals such as justice and mercy. But it is that fundamental underlying relationship which is the source of authentic human behavior.
Religion is the cultural manifestation of that relationship as it is shared with others over time. As a creature of human culture, religion begins to focus on orderliness and consistency. There is a concern with initiation and relationships with other traditions. In short, the entire functional and dysfunctional panoply of human organizations comes into play. This almost always means there are rules, rule givers, rule enforcers, and rule followers. Whether absolutely necessary or not, it appears that rules are a feature of human organizations.
What Paul is calling us to remember, however, is that the rules and following the rules is not at the heart of things. Without the interior freedom of authentic spirituality, the rules simply become the "yoke of slavery" and become a hindrance rather than a help. He calls us back to spirit of freedom given by Christ as the wellspring of our life.