In the first chapter of the letter to the Galatians, Paul gives a little history of his background in religion. He says in effect, "Do not speak to me about religion. You could never beat me. I was in that, and I was tops in that. I advanced in religion beyond many of my equals, being ‘more exceedingly zealous for the traditions of my fathers’ " (v. 14). Traditions always go together with religion. When you are strong for tradition, you are strong for religion, and the outcome is that you will persecute the church. All those who advocate religion will surely be the persecutors of the church. The Apostle Paul said this himself, once in Galatians 1 and again in Philippians 3. "As touching zeal," Paul said, "persecuting the church" (Phil. 3:6). In other words, "When I was in religion, I persecuted the church."
If you are a real Christian, you are a member of the Body of Christ. But be careful; even as a member of the Body of Christ, if you are religious, you will spontaneously persecute the church. I know what I am saying. I have seen many good Christians, many members of the Body of Christ, who have done much damage to the church. They were simply for religion; they were simply religious. These people justify their actions by pointing out certain verses in the Scriptures. They are not the unbelievers, they are not the Jews, they are the real Christians who are so religious. They care for the Christian religion; they do not care for the church life. Some would not damage the church openly, but they undermine it in a subtle way.
The two outstanding essentials of the church life are: 1) to keep the oneness and 2) to be in the spirit. In fact, all we need for the church life may be summed up in this. The slogan, "In the spirit, on the ground," epitomizes these matters. "On the ground" means to keep the oneness, and "in the spirit" simply means that we must do everything in spirit. The reason for all the criticism and persecution of the church life is simply due to these two matters. People care more for religion than being in the spirit and keeping the oneness.
If we mean business for the church life, we must be all-inclusive. Unless the church is involved in sin, immorality, or idolatry, we must go along with it. Whether the meetings are noisy or silent, whether the saints speak in tongues or do not speak in tongues, whether they pray-read or do not pray-read, we must keep the oneness in the local church. Suppose a brother comes in with bare feet. We cannot chase him away. We cannot say, "Brother, go home and get your shoes; otherwise, you cannot come back." As long as he believes in the Lord Jesus, as long as he loves the Lord Jesus, he is our dear brother. We must love him, not because he has bare feet, but because he has Jesus Christ. If you feel you must speak in tongues, then speak in tongues. If you feel that as a sister you should have your head covered, then cover it. If you prefer not to cover your head, then do not trouble those who do. Would you, or could you be so all-inclusive?
The problem today is this: those who speak in tongues always insist that others should speak in tongues, and those who do not speak in tongues would prohibit all others from doing so. We should not care for religion; we should only care for Christ. If we only care for Christ, nothing will bother us. We will be one with all the brothers and sisters. If we all care for Christ and nothing else, we will always be one; there will be no problem.
(Christ versus Religion, Chapter 11, by Witness Lee)