How often have I heard the following: Christianity isn’t a religion, it’s a relationship.
It has several variations. But the gist is the same. Religion = bad. And everything gets lumped in there. If it is liturgical, ritual, sacramental, well…..that’s just legalistic, man-made and…religious.
If that is the case, what do we do with this:
Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you. James 1:27
Saying you are a Christian but against religion is sort of like saying you are in love but against marriage. Oh, I love him. He’s great. He’s my everything. But, I won’t actually marry him. I don’t need that stifling piece of paper. I don’t need the restrictions that marriage would bring. Marriage is too narrow and too defined. I need a free relationship, one that won’t tie me down.
Latin religiōn- (stem of religiō) conscientiousness, piety, equivalent to relig (āre) to tie, fasten ( re- re- + ligāre to bind, tie; cf. ligament )[source]
Religion, at its root, means to bind something back together that is broken or that has come undone.
“I will seek what was lost and bring back what was driven away, bind up the broken and strengthen what was sick; but I will destroy the fat and the strong, and feed them in judgment.” Ezekiel 34:16
You’re not religious you say? Have you never been wounded? Have you never been brokenhearted? Do you never ache for the redemption of this world? I don’t know about you, but I could use some religion–some binding up, some re-fastening. Bind me to you, Jesus.
“The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound…” Isaiah 61:1
What keeps you in relationship with your spouse? Do your feelings of infatuation keep you there when the going gets tough? On the days when you find it difficult to love your spouse, do the warm fuzzy feelings you got when you first started dating keep you there? I think not. What keeps you there is that you are bound. You are committed. You wear the proof. You live the proof. You stood up “before God and these witnesses” and bound yourself, uniting yourself forever as one flesh. That’s called marriage.
What keeps a person in relationship with God? Is it that glowing feeling you get at Midnight Mass at Christmas? Is it the feeling of joyful exuberance you get when you’re in a Worship Service? I think not. Let’s be honest, sometimes it’s difficult to love and serve God. So, what keeps a person loving and serving God? We are bound. We are committed. We live the proof. We take the indelible mark of Baptism, binding ourselves forever in Christ’s death and resurrection. That’s called religion.
Relationship is good. But, if your love relationship doesn’t progress to oneness…..
O to grace how great a debtor
daily I’m constrained to be!
Let thy goodness, like a fetter,
bind my wandering heart to thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
prone to leave the God I love;
here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
seal it for thy courts above.
(Come, Thou Fount. Methodist Hymn. Robert Robinson, 1735-1790)