Which is Greater…Relationship or Religion?
Religion or relationship…which one wins? This is one of those “both/and” situations. Huh? Read ahead…John gives us points we can use to discuss this (sometimes cloudy) issue with our kids.
He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8 (ESV)
One evening my daughter asked “Dad – What religion was Jesus?” I was stumped. I mean technically Jewish; and also obviously Christian. “Besides”, I thought, “it’s the relationship that counts.” It seems like there is an ongoing tension between our relationship with Christ and the practice of religion.
- We follow Christ when we are religious about certain things. Christ observed all Jewish practices, setting the example for us to observe traditions like scripture memory, communion and prayer. These examples reflect a personal relationship with Christ and even reinforce it. Religion and our relationship with Christ are meant to complement each other, not compete against each other.
- We are hardwired for relationships, especially with our Creator. The Creator of the universe desires a relationship with us. It’s the source of our salvation and hardwired into our being. Johns Hopkins released a study showing relationships are so fundamental, that lack of closeness to one’s parents is the most significant indicator of suicide, heart disease and hypertension. Relationships (good and bad) drive our values and shape behaviors, including religious ones.
- In our humanity we can skew both. We can’t earn our way into favor with God…not even by going to church services enough! The problem with relationships is sinful people make them messy. Selfish values lead to self-serving behaviors. There is a long history of misusing religion as a way of establishing one’s self before God (legalism) or before others (moralism).
Culture always holds up perfect behavior as the gold standard. Instagram and Facebook are just the latest trophy case. When it comes to religion vs. relationship, Let your trophy case be empty and heavenly storehouse be full. “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8 (ESV)
Can we earn God’s love by doing good things? What are good activities that remind you of God’s love?