A friend on social media recently asked an interesting question: Is Christianity more about religion or relationship? Or a bit of both?
How would you answer?
There have been congregations, even whole denominations, that have been built on the concept of selling Christianity as relationship and not religion. I think that may have been a bit of a reaction to the over-religionization (I think that might be a new word!) of the Christian faith.
I have always seen the Christian faith as being primarily about relationship, but expressed primarily in religious ways.
Think about it: the focus of Jesus’ ministry was the Kingdom of God, which is built by and ushered in by Jesus, through his Spirit. What we do with Jesus, and how we relate to Jesus, is key to the expression of Christian faith. (After all, it is “Christ”-ian!)
But how we express our relationship with God has a religious element to it. From the time of the earliest church, modelled after the Jews in the synagogue, Christians gathered together to worship the Lord God, made known in Jesus Christ his Son. How that gets expressed varies quite a lot among the different traditions of the Christian faith, but there is a religious element that can’t be ignored.
Many people say they can worship God and be Christian without going to church, without being religious. Maybe they think they can, but I’m not sure anyone has tried and succeeded. Perhaps those who try simply have a different sort of religious expression. And, of course, there’s the whole aspect of community that gets lost when the individualistic “I” says, “I don’t have to be religious.”
(There’s also those who claim to be spiritual but not religious; again, I suspect they are just as religious, but it may be expressed differently, or aimed in a different direction. But I digress.)
By all this I mean to say: our relationship with the Lord is best lived out through our religious expression as the church. Notice that I didn’t say “in the church”, but “as the church”. The church is those called out and gathered together; in that togetherness we make religious expressions of praise, confession, thanksgiving and supplication to the Lord, that we may be empowered to take that religious expression outside the building and put to work in our own neighbourhood as we serve the Lord faithfully.
Even religious expression involves serving others. So, how are you living out your relationship with Jesus?
“I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep” (John 10.7b, NLT).