Religion or Relationship?

“It’s not a religion; it’s a relationship.”  I saw this quote on a t-shirt and haven’t been able to stop thinking about it.  I’m not entirely sure of the intent of the message, but it sounds like rejecting one in favor of the other.

Religion, by definition, is something we all have.  It’s simply our beliefs about how we got here and why we’re here.  Perhaps some dislike the word because they’ve been exposed to people who have given religion a bad name.  Or maybe some equate religion with a list of rules, and they disregard submission and authority in favor of freedom and grace.

Relationship is certainly essential.  We’re to love God with all of our heart, soul, and mind (Matt. 22:37) and we’re to love our neighbor (Matt. 22:39).  Those who fail to nurture loving relationships lack the crucial essence of Christianity.  “The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love” (1 John 4:8).

Christianity IS a religion.  The Bible tells us there’s a difference between a religion that’s worthless  and a religion that is pure and genuine (James 1:26,27). The hypocrisy of some may have tainted how some view religion (Matt. 6:1ff), but God says that true religion is acting out our love for Him and His creation.

If it’s the rules of religion that some reject, let’s remember what Jesus said:

  • “If you love Me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15).
  • “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word” (John 14:23).
  • “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3).

A relationship with Jesus involves following His rules.  It’s almost like someone asking me if I’d rather have my husband’s love or his commitment.  I want both.  His love is key in having a good, happy relationship and his commitment means he will follow through in areas of honesty, protection, and providence.

It’s not religion OR relationship.  It’s both.  A relationship with God means following the pure religion He has outlined for us in His Word.

Prayer for Today:  Help us, Lord, to show others pure religion by our love for You and for them.