True or False: “Christianity is a relationship, not a religion.”
This common meme pits “relationships” vs “religion.” Presumably, relationships are good because they allow us to be free to be ourselves, without the expectation and obligations of others. Relationships with God are good because they’re genuine and allow me to express my love for God. A relationship with God allows me be alone with Him in the way that I desire.
Religion, on the other hand, is presumably not true Christianity because it means I have to relate to God according to the rules and expectations of others. Also, religions are dry and dead and choke out the intimate relationship I might otherwise have with God. Religion, in this meme, is formal, institutional, and inauthentic.
I’ve heard people say that religion is a way to earn salvation, and salvation is all of grace. I’ve also heard Christians say things like “religion” is a creation of man and a bunch of man-made rules.
Not so fast.
It would be easy to prove that Christianity is a religion. After all, it’s the creation of God, and not man. God created the Church and breathed His Holy Spirit into her so that she is filled with the life of Jesus Christ and is called the Body and Bride of Christ. As far as “rules”: I’m pretty sure that the 10 Commandments and all of the commandments of Christ and the apostles were God’s idea.
But there’s more to why it’s a good thing that Christianity is truly a religion.
In my last post, I discussed how religion comes from a Latin word meaning “to bind.” And the essence of both true relationships and true religion is this binding, for the most binding force on earth is love.
By love, I’m bound by my wife and give up a lot of the liberty I had as a bachelor. I can’t look at other women now, or take them out for intimate dinners. I can’t live a separate life from my wife: she’s one with me wherever I go.
Love, in fact, requires a binding oneself to another, which is why Christianity is what we might call a religious relationship. At the heart of Christianity is the covenant. And what is the covenant but a very special, religious relationship, that is completely binding and put in effect by a vow or oath from which there is no escape.
A relationship without religion would look like what? A life filled occasional remembrances of God and coming before Him only when I feel like it?
Maybe one of the reasons so many Christians believe that Christianity is a relationship and not a religion is because they have not correctly read the way God relates to men in the Scriptures. Jesus Christ has taken one Bride, the Church, of which all Christians are members. The relationship Christians have with God, therefore, is a corporate relationship. And it was Jesus Christ who ordained apostles to lead the Church after His Ascension, and Jesus Christ who ordained the Sacraments of Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.
Finally, my relationship with God is never just “me and Jesus.” Jesus has united Himself to His whole Church, and that contains billions and billions of other Christians, with whom I now have a relationship as well.
Christianity is a religious relationship: what do you think?