“It helps me to make a rough distinction between “religion” and “spirituality.” By religion I mean the efforts that we make to keep things together in a somewhat orderly fashion, to maintain some sense of responsibility before God. By spirituality I mean the work of the Holy Spirit in making Jesus alive in us, inciting us to acts of love and compassion, blessing us with his gifts, bringing us to our knees in repentance and up on our feet in wonder. Religion is mostly a matter of what we do; spirituality is mostly a matter of what God does. My own practice has been to keep my involvement in religion to a responsible minimum‑my participation in spirituality (in the Spirit!) extravagantly maximal.” (Peterson, Eugene. The Wisdom of Each Other. Grand Rapids: ZondervanPublishingHouse, 1998, p. 96.)
My experience with the word “religion” is almost completely negative in tone. It’s a word that has meant “God activities without relationship with God.” It would be better to call that “empty religion,” since James says that there is a true religion that produces actual change in character and genuine care for those in greatest need (James 1:27).
Peterson opts to use “religion” as a more neutral word to describe our actions or initiatives related to God, and “spirituality” for the initiatives and acts of the Holy Spirit. Peterson’s focus is to continually direct his attention to spirituality, seeking to notice and cooperate with the initiatives and acts of the Spirit, rather than to become engrossed in his own God-related activities (that can so easily become God-disconnected). I find myself continually tempted to be far more aware of all my “doings” rather than learning to live attentively to the works of the Father.
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