For some time now it has been a pet peeve of mine when Christians start talking against religion. I realize that it’s all semantics of course. I guess that’s what bothers me about the whole thing. We try to justify our faith and bad press with catchy phrases instead of with our lives. To those who would oppose us we say, “It’ about a relationship not religion.” Who says? Since when did these become separate things? Let me reunite these two concepts once and for all, at least in my minds and hopefully in yours as well.
What are relationships? A relationship is simply an association between two or more people. A relationship changes the way you look at things. When I first met my wife it changed that way I looked at a lot of things and now having been married almost 9 years I realize it still is. A true relationship changes the way you think, what you care about and what you do. Don’t feel bad, it’s natural. In fact I am more concerned when a relationship doesn’t change someone. Those are the relationships that usually disintegrate. I’m not talking about losing your identity or anything. I am simply saying that the associations you keep will either change you for the better or for the worse but they will change you.
Now what is religion? In James we have this description.
Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. James 1:27 ESV
The dictionary says this:
A set of beliefs, values, and practices based on the teachings of a spiritual leader.
Are you enraged? Are you ready to pick up your anti-religion picket signs and march around the nearest church? I hope it is starting to get a little clearer. Religion is nothing but a set of beliefs, values and practices. All of which are developed by an association with someone.
The worst thing for a Christian is to be in a relationship with God that is not changing them. Your relationship with Christ produces religion because religion is acting upon your relationship with Him. In fact, the impact of your religion is directly proportionate to the commitment of your relationship. Do you want a better relationship with Jesus, then start being faithful to Him with your actions? I didn’t vow to always remain in association with my wife; I vowed my life in faithful service to her. Does Christ deserve any less?
My prayer is that my relationship with Christ makes me more religious everyday. How else will anyone know there is a relationship to begin with? Later I will share what this implies for the church corporately.
Update: Part II