It’s not a religion, it’s a relationship.

It’s not a religion, it’s a relationship.

I see that phrase used so many times around everywhere. I can’t say I’m totally comfortable with the phrase. The phrase is so short, and cannot sufficiently describe the Christian experience in my opinion. How can you throw around so broad a term to describe Christianity? There is always the temptation for me to ask people what do they mean by religion, what do you mean by relationship? Are religion and relationship mutually exclusive? What type of relationship are you talking about? Just a whole barrel of questions, sparked by this one statement.

It’s not a religion…

What people mean when they say Christianity is not a religion I think is not being under the yoke of the law and therefore the absences of following a set of laws. I guess the first impression I get when people say, ‘religion’ is the Catholic Mass, with people following the various ordinances and following traditions to please God. That’s what I think most people are referring to and this is the impression I get when I talk to those hip “Christian” people who…oh I won’t say anymore. Anyway, that is the impression I get, that people think that religion is unyielding and traditional.

But the word religion by definition is derived from the Latin word, “religio” and is related to the word “religare”, which means “bound to”. Thereby, how can you say it’s not a religion, if you purport you are not bound to God. Romans 1 says:

“Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus” (Romans 1v.1a)

The NASB even renders the word, “bondservant”. So, Paul the apostle to the Gentiles, he was a servant and all servants have masters and they serve him with all their hearts. How can we be indifferent to God, clearly it say that we are servant of God and we are bonded to him. The antithesis I guess is that if we are not bonded to God, then who are we bonded to? We are bonded to the Devil and Hell. That is not good to be bonded to him as you probably have discerned. It is total delusion that you tell yourself that you are not bonded to anything and you have a choice in life as to who you serve, we are born into slavery to sin.

But, I do kind of get what people are trying to say. Religion is dry and archaic in some ways, but I think better perhaps is to term religion is wrong when it is legalistic. Legalistic meaning the earning salvation through works. I like the analogy that legalism is like man building a bridge to heaven, where monergistic (mono meaning one) salvation is God carrying a dead man across the bridge that Jesus built through his death and ressurection. Arguably most of the world’s religions and some Christian religions follow this system, each religion has different ideas and paths as to how we are supposed to get to heaven. For example Buddhism believes that we are paying off karma and getting to higher and higher levels of divinity, while Muslims pray towards Mecca religiously because of what it says in their Holy Text:

“Verily, We have seen the turning of your [Muhammad’s] face towards the heaven. Surely, We shall turn you to a Qiblah that shall please you, so turn your face in the direction of Al-Masjid Al-Haraam [Mecca]. And wheresoever you people are, turn your faces in that direction”
[Quran 2:144]

Many of the main religions in the world do subscribe to legalistic or synergistic theology. This is a distinctive point of Jesus’ ministry, where he preaches:

“No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 3v.16b)

Jesus speaks with exclusivity to other religions, he proclaimed that he was the only way and that no one could get to God except through his work. Either this is a ridiculous claim or there was never a truer one. Anyway, since his work is done on the cross, we don’t have to try to earn our way into heaven but we are to live to preach the gospel. Don’t get me wrong in the slightest, we are not under the demands of the law anymore like the Israelites beforehand, but Jesus said:

““Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” Matthew 5:17 (English Standard Version)

The point I am trying to make is that, Christianity is different from the other religions because we follow no set of laws. But we have been renewed in following Jesus reflecting the past fulfilment of what ceremonial laws are considering Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. It is true that we don’t follow any bunch of laws, but we are still governed by what the Bible says and what God has set out is acceptable behaviour to Him. Our convictions and actions are still bound to what Jesus and God have commanded. But legalism is what we have continually fight against because it makes our works stale and contrived, instead of a sweet offering to God out of our thankfulness.

…it’s a relationship.

What I think people talk about this phrase is that we are to be in relationship with Jesus. I get the impression sometimes that it is almost bordering on Jesus being our boyfriend at some points when I hear the trash that is Christian radio. Opps, I should speak with more love, I’m sorry. The word relationship is a very wide term, which could be relating to a relationship between a boyfriend and girlfriend to a friend and a friend. I guess what type of relationship has to be defined.

The relationship I’m thinking of is covenantal. In fact, our relation to God is through and always has been through covenant, since God made the first covenant with Adam:

“And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden,”but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” ”

Genesis 2:16-17 (English Standard Version)

Here in the first Adamic covenant, God commanded Adam that he could eat of anything in the whole of the Garden of Eden EXCEPT for the tree in the middle of garden. The point I’m making is that here is the relationship that God chose to have with his people, a covenantal one. The covenant is by definition one-sided with God making the terms of the agreement. The basic format for a covenant for God was that he would be gracious to those that follow his ways and he wouldn’t smite them with thunder and other mean things…hmm. Just read through the former parts of Deuteronomy and the pattern is clear.

Perhaps the most important covenant between God and man is in Jeremiah 31v.33-34:

But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

The Hebrew word here used for “know” is yada indicating a close, warm, and even passionate intimacy combined with head knowledge that produces an “edge” in a person’s life. Anyway, God defines the roles of the people in this new covenant, he will surely be God and His people will follow Him with their hearts. The meaning of this passage is veiled, but when Jesus came to this earth the full meaning of what this passage really does mean.

“And he said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.”Truly, I say to you, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.” “

Mark 14:24-25 (English Standard Version)
This is what the relationship that Jesus Christ our Lord sets out at the Last Supper table before he was to be betrayed. Jesus would be the sacrifice to signify this New Covenant, him dying on the cross would set out the precedent to this new covenant. A new covenant where people would be reconciled to God not through the blood of lambs, but of the Holy Spotless Lamb only.

This new relationship is sealed finally with the giving of the Holy Spirit. The OT promises this to happen:

“As for me, this is my covenant with them,” says the LORD. “My Spirit, who is on you, and my words that I have put in your mouth will not depart from your mouth, or from the mouths of your children, or from the mouths of their descendants from this time on and forever,” says the LORD.” (Isaiah 59v.21)

This is fulfilled in the NT in Jesus ascending up to heaven, though the Holy Spirit had been given out in smaller measures beforehand, the day of Pentecost is where the Holy Spirit was given out in great measure. Tongues of fire were present, a great gust of wind and speaking in tongue unknown to the user were present to show the coming of the Holy Spirit to everyone present. Thus this would fulfill what God would say would happen in the OT, God’s Spirit would dwell inside each of the descendants and every believer of God.

If you want to make it a nice cuddly boyfriend-girlfriend relationship, you are surely short changing the gospel and cheapening grace. God doesn’t want a relationship where he can be tossed into a corner and you can make the rules. He isn’t concerned about having your t-shirt or your words, those things are not substitutes for your heart. He wants your heart so he can change what clothes you wear and what you say. He wants your God because that is who he is.

Therefore, I guess I think what would be more accurate is:

It’s not legalistic religion but covenantal relationship.

Anyway, what I’m trying to show is that slogans are useless as definitive theology. Just like saying you’re a Calvinist or an Arminianist is useless unless you truly understand what you’re talking about, and what you imply. Just as saying Jesus died for our sins, but denying that we are inherently sinful as well. (Romans 5) Hopefully I haven’t stepped on too many people’s metaphorical theological toes there. It was not my intention. Well, it was my intention totally to refine people’s views. I know what I say is perhaps a bit not conventional, but who cares…feel free to give me your thoughts below, I will answer or endeavor to.

“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” 1Corinthians 6v.19-20


About JN
what happened to dignity / never see it on MTV.

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