Words of Healing “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away” – Jesus (Matt 24:35).

15Sep/100

Christian-ese “It’s not a Religion, It’s a Relationship”

If you’ve been around Christians much, you’ve probably heard someone say, “It’s not a religion, it’s a relationship.”  Christians have thrown this phrase around so much that I can’t help but wonder if anyone considers what it really means.  For the person who’s not a Christian that hears this, they’re probably thinking, “Um, look up religion in the dictionary buddy, Christianity is a religion.”  On this point, I actually agree: Christianity is definitely a religion.  Even the Bible doesn’t argue against it being a religion.  So, I guess to be more accurate, a person should say that Christianity is a religion that is about relationships, not rules.  It’s not that there are no rules in Christianity, the Bible is chalk full of them.  However, the rules are not there simply to be obeyed for the sake of being obeyed, but are there to help us to see what things hurt our relationship with God and other people.

Marriage is About Relationship

My wife and I are married because we love each other.  Our marriage together is about our relationship together, not rules.  However, we do have rules.  We have rules about both the things that we should do to build our relationship, and rules about the things that we shouldn’t do in order to protect our marriage.

Before our son was born, and hopefully soon again, we scheduled dates alone once a week.  You might call it “organized marriage.”  Some people don’t like the idea of scheduling dates.  They believe it ruins the spontaneity.  My wife thought that when we first met, but she soon came to realize that as the week progressed she was looking forward to our time alone together.  When we didn’t get our dates for whatever reason, she often felt very jipped.  This rule of having a date night did not make our marriage dry and boring; rather it helped us to remember to continually prioritize our marriage within our schedule.  The more hectic the schedule, the more important it is to make sure that you set time aside, because as it’s said:  you make time, you don’t find it.

My wife and I also have rules that are there to protect against things that are, or lead to, what would potentially damage a marriage relationship.  For example, we have a rule that we don’t spend time alone with the opposite sex.  This simply helps reduce the chance that we will become emotionally attached to someone else during a rough time and jeopardize our marriage.  To my knowledge, most people don’t have this rule, and it may seem quite absurd to some…that’s okay.  Personally, I look at the world around me and see affairs happening left and right, and this is just one precaution that I can take to guard my heart so that my focus can stay on building my relationship with my wife.

True Religion is About Relationship

To the non-religious person, my life would appear very religious.  I go to church most Sunday mornings and to a small group on Wednesday evenings.  I also listen to approximately an hour of sermons every day.  Some might even think that sounds like a super Christian.  However, anyone who thinks that those things equate to being a good Christian has entirely missed the point.  How good of a marriage do I have if I listen to an hour of marriage seminars every day?  How good of a marriage do I have if I go on a group date on Sunday mornings and another, smaller group date, on Wednesday evenings?  These things have nothing to do with the quality of my marriage.  They may help to improve my marriage if I put the things I learn into practice, but they will not change me into a better husband.  The quality of my marriage is determined by the amount of time and energy I put into the relationship…whether or not I serve my wife and try to meet her needs to the best of my ability, the level of communication, etc.

The same is true with God.

Religious activities are not bad.  Listening to sermons, reading the Bible, and going to church help us to keep a focus on the things that are important if we put the things that we learn into practice.  We can learn about what things might damage our relationship with God, and then we can put rules into place that help to protect us from doing that damage to our relationship with God.  Indeed, we should do these things.  Even people who don’t really believe in God see the value in doing these things.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people say that they want to go to church so that their kids are brought up with a good moral center.  Unfortunately, with many people, Christianity ends right there…a good moral center.  It seems to me that this is like the marriage couple who says, “We’re just roommates with benefits.”  They have a family, the don’t cheat, from the outside it looks like they have a decent life.  However, without that relationship at the core, it just doesn’t add up to much.  I won’t say that rules without relationship are worthless, but they are the next closest thing.

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