Is Christianity Merely About A Relationship And Not Religion?

I am sure many of you have heard the phrase "Christianity isn't a religion its a relationship," or, "I am a Christian but I am not religious." The term "religious" has even been used as a pejorative to describe those that are about the "law of God" and have no insight into the relationship aspect of Christianity.

A recent sermon that I heard said nothing less than this with statements such as "God didn't create us to follow a bunch of rules," and "when loves rules, rules are hidden." The point that he was making was that "God's Law" is not something we wake up worrying about breaking in the same way a husband doesn't wake up worrying about cheating on his wife. He loves her therefore doesn't think about what he should do or not be doing. It is all about love.

The point here is the same sort of "antinomian" rhetoric that has spread throughout this nation for a long time now under the guise of "progressive" Christianity. With this message is also the message that we shouldn't "judge" and that all we need to do is to love. This was the call of many "Christians" regarding Sodomite marriage. All we need to do is to "love" and not "judge." If two people of the same gender wish to marry, who are we to judge? They "love" each other!

This is the same sort of juxtaposition used over and over again: we are under grace and not law, we are to love and not judge, we are to be about a relationship and not be "religious." Time and time again these contrasts are painted throughout this nation ad nauseam.

One of the biggest errors used in supporting this mantra is the constant reference to the Pharisees. It is assumed that the Pharisees were religious, judgmental, and only cared about God's Law and enforcing it. Every single one of these assumptions are incorrect. First of all, the Pharisees were not following God's Law at all. In fact, this is why Jesus called them "hypocrites." They were not following God's Law but rather their man-made traditions.

And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, “‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.” - Mark 7:6-8

And let me just ask this: is it wrong to follow God's Law? What does"legalism" mean? Does that mean that you are endeavoring to follow and implement God's Law in every sphere of life? If so, then there is not ONE SINGLE THING WRONG WITH THAT! In fact, we are told to do that!

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments." - John 14:15

"And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked." - 1 John 2:3-6

How did Jesus walk? Was Jesus a law-keeper? Was Jesus obedient to God's Law!? Of course He was. If then Jesus set this down as an example for us, what makes us think that we can merely claim to love God while diminishing the very Law that shows us how to Love God and which Jesus kept!

Furthermore, when we speak about love, love is not about being "lawless," nor is it an open-ended definition that one fills in the blanks with emotions. To be "loving" is to be obedient to God's Law. How can one love without knowing the definition or parameters for it? How can one love without knowing what love looks like? God's Law teaches us that we love by obeying God's commandments. This is exactly what Jesus Christ meant when He said that the entire Law hangs upon "loving God" and "loving your neighbor." This is the summary of the Decalogue which the first four commandments (referring to God) and the last six (referring to man) are speaking about.

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” - Matthew 22:36-40

Regarding the term "religion" let me simply say that Christianity is a religion, the only TRUE religion and that Christians are to be religious. This is precisely what James says: "Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world." - James 1:27

Specifically, the term here in the Greek used for religion is "threskeia" and literally means religion, worship, and ceremonial observance. Again, how can we be "observant" if God's Law is not in view? There is no way that one is following Jesus Christ, being observant of God's Law and is not being "religious." You most certainly are religious and should be! I do not care about what the term has COME TO MEAN when the culture and society does not get the right to define these terms any more than they get the right to define marriage. The question is not whether or not one is religious, we all are in some form or another. The question is are you following the pure and true religion as defined by the only True Word of God!? We are actually worshiping God when we are obedient to Him and show our love to Him by doing what is well pleasing to Him which is defined by His Law.

Obviously, to those that wish to argue that one cannot keep the Law in order to be JUSTIFIED, I would agree. The Bible certainly makes that clear to us, however. We are talking about the Christian life going forward in practical every day living and in application of every sphere of our lives. As followers of Christ, having BEEN JUSTIFIED, we now seek to please God and we do so by endeavoring to follow His perfect Law which He has laid out for us and empowers us to obey through the Holy Spirit and our new nature. Once we are justified that doesn't mean the work of grace is over. Salvation is a package deal which, after having been justified, the Holy Spirit begins the work of sanctification, which, in turn, deals with holiness and following after the commands of God in and throughout our lives.

In conclusion, Christianity is not either/or regarding relationship and religion, it is a both/and. Yes, we have a relationship with the God of our salvation but YES we also have been given a precious and perfect Law to follow in observing that which is well pleasing unto God. We are not to simply reduce Christianity to merely experiential and emotional feelings. We are to mediate upon the Law of God both DAY AND NIGHT. It is interesting to note that one of the longest chapters in the Bible is found in Psalms 119. The entire chapter is about loving, following, meditating, and observing the Law of God! We must not divorce the importance and necessity of God's Law regarding our relationship with Him. If we remove Law from the relationship, one will be left with a ship without a sail, a house upon sand, and a supposed God with no standard for our lives.

Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty and what is this liberty except the "perfect Law of liberty?"

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