I have often heard people talk about Christianity being more of a relationship than a religion, but I’m afraid this description misses the mark. You see, I seldom see people as committed in their relationships as this description would require. What if you believe God has wronged you in some way? What if you get to a place where you feel that you’ve grown apart? How should God treat your repeated relational indiscretions?
It seems then that if we really consider the way many people easily discard relationships, we might want to rethink this kind of understanding. That is not to say that there is no relational quality to our faith, but rather that we cannot sum it up as a relationship, and we certainly shouldn’t make it part of a false dichotomy with religion.
Religion is the essence of devotion. Our religious activities are to be an outpouring our our absolute devotion to God. Religion and relationship are necessary parts in the daily walk with God. And in speaking of religion in this way we can get a better glimpse at Christianity in a global sense. There are many traditions throughout Christendom that seem quite strikingly different than what any one of us may be used to, but they are simply unique ways to express the relational devotion we have to God.
There is another thing that tends to happen when someone views Christianity as a relationship rather than a religion. The terms of the relationship begin to get a bit blurry. God and King, Master and Lord, get discarded for the much easier to handle Friend. When God becomes solely our friend, we lose the fear of the LORD, and our relationship with Him becomes unbiblical. Again, this is where religious devotion comes in. We are His servants, His children even. We must remember that God has been and will always be great, higher and holier than we are.
Finally, let us remember how Paul described how we are to be even in our relationship to one another.
Phil. 2:5 ¶ In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:Phil. 2:6 ¶ Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
Phil. 2:7 rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.Phil. 2:8 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
Paul’s description tells us two main things of great importance to how we are to view relationships. The first is that we are to see ourselves as the servants of others, and this even to our own peril. Second, and of great importance to the point, as Christ Jesus, we are not to consider ourselves as equals with God. He is not merely our friend, but our great heavenly King, and we owe Him all of our devotion and allegiance.