It’s easy to understand how “worldly” things can distract us from total devotion to God. A desire for wealth can distract us, and come between us and God. Lust for illicit relationships can come between us and God. Physical and emotional addictions can come between us and God. Once we understand these things, we can ask God for the strength to turn from them back to Him.
But there is one place most people are not expecting such distractions, and where they can be blinded to the danger. And yet it can be the source of the greatest barrier between individuals and a one-on-one relationship with their True Beloved. That place is inside some religious organizations. For there are numerous religious organizations and religious leaders that promise to bring people closer to God through their teachings and activities—when in fact they are coming between the individual believer and God.
There are many faith communities that are healthy spiritual environments, where each individual is, indeed, gently helped by those more mature in the Faith to grow into a deeper and deeper relationship with God. Within such settings believers are encouraged and equipped to study the Bible independently. They are pointed directly to the scriptures as the only sure foundation for their daily life. They are allowed the freedom to agreeably disagree about debatable points in the Bible, without fear of recriminations or ostracism. They are allowed the freedom to be responsible for their own decisions in all matters of Christian conscience, and to directly follow the leading of the Holy Spirit.
But there are other Faith communities that distort this approach. Leaders of such groups may demand personal loyalty and personal obedience of those who come under their influence. An idiosyncratic, minutely-detailed list of required standards (perhaps regarding even such picky matters as hair lengths and clothing styles), based on something other than the clear admonition of scripture, may be imposed as a condition of continued fellowship. Fear rather than love and faith may be used as a method of influence and control. Leaders may imply or even boldly state that one’s standing with them is a barometer of one’s standing with God, and that their approval is a prerequisite to obtaining the blessings of God.
If you recognize any one (or more) of these factors in some group or religious leader that you are involved with, you may want to seriously consider if perhaps the religious environment you are immersed in is distracting you from a spiritually healthy relationship with the one who should be your First Love. Any “religion” should be only a tool to learn more about God and to help believers toward an individual relationship with Him. If we find ourselves in love with the religion itself, in obedience to the religion itself, perhaps even in fear of the religion itself, something is terribly wrong.
Editors Note: Pam Dewey is author of Field Guide to the Wild World of Religion. She publishes the website, Field Guide to the Wild World of Religion , which she states: "The purpose of this site is to shine the Light of God's Word, the light of common sense, and the light of open investigation of the facts on certain doctrines, ministries, and teachers. Those who come here to see these things in the light can thus make their own evaluation of whether these doctrines, ministries, and teachers should be accepted as being from the Lord."