Religion Doesn’t Work
Growing up I used to hear this one saying over and over again. I still hear it out of the mouths of youth, pastors, friends and youtube videos, and it has always jarred with me. I could never quite say it myself and I guess I thought there was something wrong with me.
Have you heard it before?
“I’m not religious,
I have a relationship with God.”
Our Christian culture today is saturated with this idea, or at least with the catchy slogan, “Relationship > Religion.” It was really made famous by Jefferson Bethke’s video “Why I Hate Religion but Love Jesus” which has been viewed over 33 million times!
Unfortunately, this type of thinking misleads you into making a false decision of either choosing religion, or choosing a relationship. And by putting both up on a pedestal to fight each other, we misunderstand what religion is, and what relationship is.
See growing up, a huge part of the problem that I faced was that the term ‘religion’ had so many negative connotations. But the word religion comes from the latin word ‘religare‘ which means ‘to bind’ or ‘to tie’. Religion is that by which holds everything together. Another way to look at is, religion means covenant; the way in which we are held together with God.
Certainly, Christianity is a relationship with Christ. Of course it is!! But there is no relationship with Christ outside of His covenant. And a covenant is by definition a relationship establishing certain bonds, that is, a religion.
What I fear, is that we, the Church, followers of Jesus, have greatly misunderstood what it means to be religious.
Did you know the bible speaks of what true religion looks like? James writes about, he says: ‘Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.’
Did you read that carefully?
Did you see what he said?
God has a religion that he accepts as faultless.
So often we categorise religion with rules, money, faults, pride, arrogance BUT that’s not the religion that God wants. His religion is one of love, care, compassion, hope, purity, and holiness. Our picture of religious people often looks like the pharisees, but God has called us to look like Jesus.
If you claim to be religious yet do not show love to those in need and be holy, then you’re not religious.
If you claim that you are not religious but that you simply have a relationship with Jesus, you’ve misunderstood the religion that God has called you to. If you have a relationship with Christ, you have it because God has made a new covenant with you. And if you are in covenant with Him, that should drive you to perform the works of true religion, which James makes so clear: Loving the unloved, and being holy.
Is this the kind of religious person you want to be?
It most certainly is what I want to be.
My name is Chris, I have a relationship with Jesus, and I want to be more religious.