“Christianity is not about a religion. It’s about a relationship.”
Have you heard this statement before? It’s partially true. The Judeo-Christian worldview is indeed about a relationship with God. However, it’s technically still a religion. Let me explain.
A religion is defined as, “the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods.” According to this definition, Christianity fits the description of a religion because it espouses the belief in a supernatural entity that is to be worshipped. It’s also the largest religion in the world with over 2.3 billion people identifying with this worldview.
Personal vs Religious
If this is the case, then why do people talk about Christianity as if it’s only a relationship? I think people who believe this have good intentions. They want unchurched people to know that Christianity is genuine and personal. It’s not ritualistic. Ritualism to some implies that worship is devoid of authenticity and experience.
I can understand this argument. That’s why my article suggests that Christianity is more focused on the relational aspect than the religious aspect. But it does not negate the fact that this Abrahamic faith is deeply entrenched in history and one of the major religions of the world.
Jesus was both Deeply Religious and Relational
More importantly, Jesus, who is the chief cornerstone of Christianity (Hence the name Christian for Christ), was deeply religious. He was a devout Jew. If you read the New Testament, you will quickly find out that Jesus never missed the Sabbath, prayed in the synagogue frequently, refrained from eating unclean animals, and obeyed the entire Torah perfectly (Lk. 4:16; Acts 13:14).
And while Jesus was religious in the technical sense, his religion was personal. In other words, He obeyed God and kept His commandments out of love. Jesus, the image of the invisible God, was the Word of God Incarnate. Even Jesus said, “I did not come to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it.”
Pharisees had religion without relationship
Jesus was the sharpest critic of the religious leaders. He called them brood of vipers and hypocrites. He told the Pharisees that they like to add more rules and regulations, creating a burden of a religion. He told the Pharisees they pray in public to show off how “spiritual” they are to others rather than praying authentically to God and desiring to really know Him. Jesus did not want that for his people. He said, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light (Matt. 11:28).”
Christianity is a religion. Jesus was deeply religious. But the key here is that religion without a relationship with God is vanity. Going through the rituals and laws just to prove to others how spiritual you are or to think that the Creator will bless you because of your commitment is not genuine faith.
God wants our religion to be authentic. An authentic religion is all about having a relationship with God. God desires our heart more than sacrifice. He wants to be deeply connected with us and heal our wounds. The Lord wants us to give Him all the praise, glory, and honor that He rightfully deserves.
Moreover, Jesus told us what a pure religion is. “To visit the widows and orphans in distress and to be unspotted from the world (James 1:27).” When we serve the vulnerable and the needy, we get nothing in return. We are showing unconditional love just like our heavenly Father.
This pure religion also calls us to live radically different than the world. We are not to be prideful, but humble. We are not to build our riches here on earth, but store them in heaven. Our goal is not to be successful according to the standards of the world, but rather according to God’s standards. This is what God has called us to do.
In conclusion, Christianity is a religion. But this religion must be attached to a relationship with God. The point of being religious is being devoted to the Lord out of love and desire. We should be committed to the Christian faith because we love God rather than just doing it for the sake of tradition. Therefore, let’s serve the living God with authenticity. A religion that is pure and holy. A religion that honors the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
Article written by Chad A. Damitz (M.Div)