Religion vs. Relationship

In the last few months, I have seen people saying “Christianity isn’t a religion, it’s a relationship” and “no rules, just relationship” and things along those lines, as if the two concepts are divorceable, or even already divorced.

Christianity isn’t a religion in the sense that it is the rule-following that makes you righteous, like all the other traditional religions. Christianity isn’t a traditional religion anyway, it’s way different. Maybe this is where most people get off track?

Christianity IS a religion in the sense that it is a way of life. That’s what a religion is–the system of rules you live by, and everyone has one, even if it’s a lawless one, whether it’s a theological religion that’s been around 1000s of years, or a humanist religion or one they create on their own as they go along.

Christianity is about your relationship with Christ, but that’s not all there is to it. Your proper relationship with
Christ will compel you to follow the rules he gives you, because they are good for him and good for you and good for others. Some of them are external, established (like other “religions”) and apply to everyone. Some of them are based more on just you and apply to you, the things you are personally responsible for. Maybe this is where some other people get off track?

Relationships take two. A relationship with Christ starts with Christ, not you. Overvaluing your contribution to and presence in the relationship and undervaluing the rules that Jesus gives to you along the way ultimately leads you to make and rely on your own rules. Thus you will be fulfilled within yourself, but you ignore his rules, and fail at your relationship with Christ. So, no, Christianity isn’t a “traditional religion” like the others, but if you believe in Christ, then you will look to him for directions on what to do, even if they sound like “rules.” There is a danger in divorcing “relationship” and “religion,” even if it makes a catchy alliterative phrase.

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