Because of our natural inclination to observe and make judgments about the religiousness or spirituality of others based on what we think the exterior indicators should be, we tend to put superfluous stress on the “social” aspects of religion. It seems so obviously natural to look at the actions, demeanor, or life-styles of individuals and make judgments about their spirituality. We see the people at church and those not at church; we see the committee or ministry members active in church life, and we see those who are not; we see the volunteers who give of their time, and we see those who don’t; we see those who give money to needy causes, and we see those who don’t; we see the sober, upright, and straight, and we see those who are not; we see the pious, respectful and subservient, and we see those who are not; we see those caught up in prayer and devotion, and we see those who are not. Those who ARE we tend to lump in one group, those who ARE NOT in another.
The fact is, no one person ever fully knows the heart of another person. Modern stress on the communal or social aspects of religion only influences us more to make judgments based on social criteria. It may currently be the minority opinion, but I maintain that the level none ever truly fathom in another, the level of our personal relationship with You, is the foundation of everything. What we see others doing or not doing is filtered through our biases, opinions, and experiences. It therefore becomes quite possible that those we see doing all those things may yet be far from You and those we see doing none of those things may be very close to You.
Spirituality is not always congruent with expected behavior. Judging is a futile and cancerous activity. Trickier but much more valid is accepting people where they’re at.