Mar 25, 2009

40 day journey: it's not always one or the other

Maybe you've heard or said this phrase - "I don't have a religion... I have a relationship with Jesus Christ."

First off, I'm on board with the heart of that statement.

However, Christianity is more than an internal relationship... more than "getting saved" or crossing one line of faith. It involves many lines of faith we cross... personal practice that flows out of the beautiful core of a supernatural relationship. Some would call this our religion - the positive way we interact with and respond to that Divine relationship on a human level. Many don't like the "religion" word because it is often references something cultural/traditional/habitual that seems more guilt-based than God-based.

Once anything becomes a religion alone, it becomes legalistic - "Here's what I do to check off the spiritual box in my life." or "Here's what I do to manipulate life and eternity as I want it."

If it becomes less about my interaction with God, though, it can become fatalistic - "God wanted it to happen and I could do nothing about it."

A friend of mine summed up the importance of the difference in this question:

Two people show up to church on a given Sunday morning. Both are members of this church in good standing. Both know people and are known by people. Both put money in the bucket as it goes by. Both sing the same songs and hear the same sermon. Both affirm the same doctrinal statement or creed.

One is a true saint, kind and generous, honest and hospitable, patient and peaceful, a true joy to be around.

The other is a real jerk, bitter and selfish, argumentative and pessimistic, gossipy and critical, a terror to be around.

Question: Do they both have the same faith?

They both claim to be Christians. They both attend and are members of a Christian church. They both affirm the contents of the Christian faith. But do they both have the same faith?

Honestly? The way I see it one follows the cause of the church…

the other follows the Christ of the church.

Same faith, but in different places.

"Religion versus Relationship."

And yet - ironcially - we can tell that through the way they practice their faith.

"Religion and Relationship."

Let's clear it up - on this side of heaven, we have both. Christianity is a relationship first - because God initiates the search. As such it is best to sum it up that way. But Christianity also involves human-sized practices that try to respond to a God-sized Lord. And so there is some religion in it, whether we like it or not.

Thankfully, balancing it all out is in God's hands... not ours.

But what is in ours is where we put the emphasis.

Where is yours today? And which of the two people in the aforementioned scenario would you say you're more like?

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