Christianity Isn’t Just a Relationship, And It’s Still a Religion
I’m always taught that Christianity is not a religion. Rather, it is a relationship with the Lord Jesus. I have always believed this until deep personal reflections were done.
If Christianity is not a religion, then what do you call the Sunday gatherings we do, when we sing songs, listen to the sermon, pray together, and fellowship with other believers? What do you call the Bible study groups we conduct, the small groups we attend, and the evangelistic events we organize? And what about the rituals of daily Bible reading and prayer, weekly personal Bible studies, and monthly fasting? Aren’t all these religion, for religion involves all these kinds of observances and practices?
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that we are saved by religion, or by works. We are saved only by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9), and I am strongly affirming that. But we must not neglect that we are saved to do good works. Right after verse 9 of Ephesians 2, we are told:
10For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10, emphasis added)
At this point, an illustration would be helpful. Imagine two friends who had a conflict, for one of them sinned against the other. But the offended one chooses to forgive the offender. The offender, which is now forgiven, doesn’t just take this lightly. Rather, he goes through various “rituals” to please his friend and to avoid another cause of pain to him. He does this not to earn forgiveness (remember, he was already forgiven). He does this as gratitude to his gracious friend.
I realized that religion isn’t just a bunch of rituals, observances, or practices. Rather, it is a joyful and humble expression of our gratitude to what Christ had done for us on the cross. It is our expression of thankfulness to the saving work of Christ, which is impossible with men but possible with God, and which is a display of His glorious grace to sinners like us.
Our salvation, then, should naturally flow into good works. In other words, our personal relationship with the Lord Jesus will inevitably result to religion.
Many unbelievers, I believe, are puzzled when we reply to their question, “What is Christianity?” with the answer “Christianity is a relationship.” While that is true, I believe it doesn’t paint them the whole picture. And while it is true that Christianity is a relationship with Jesus, it is also (and still) a religion—the joyful and humble expression of our gratitude to the crucified and risen Lord, and to what He has done for us on the cross.