Religion or Relationship–Part 1

A common cliche of modern Christianity says, “It’s not a religion, it’s a relationship.” When I asked Marshall what he thought this meant, he said, “Obeying God because we love Him, not because we have to in order to get into heaven.”  Great insight! I think he might actually have nailed what the initiators of that phrase were striking for.  And while I agree whole heartedly with Marshall’s interpretation, the phrase itself causes me some concern.

I have heard “religion” defined as man’s attempt to reach God (or a god as the case may be.) And I think this is likely the definition that is used by the coiners of the aforementioned phrase. However, this is a new definition designed by Christians, not a commonly held one by the general public. One dictionary definition I found is, “a particular form of faith or worship.”  To juxtapose religion with relationship as it is in the cliche, suggests that religion exists outside of or without a relationship–that religion is a form based system. But this definition suggests that it is a “form” with a proposed end–worship. In other words it is not merely form for the sake of form; it is form that provides the structure for worship, which in essence implies relationship.

I am one of those people that loves to please. I have so often felt like, “Just tell me what to do, God and I’ll do it.” And I have cried out to him in desperation, “Is this making you happy? Did I do it right?” Form provides a certain level of comfort for me. On the other hand, I am also one of those people who rails against status quo. I don’t want to be boxed in. I want my relationship with God to be personal and distinct, not standard and classic. And so I find myself struggling on the one hand to accept a form that does not always provide the structure I desire, and on the other hand to allow for a personal connection with God without entering into my own little world of imagined spirituality.

Perhaps this struggle is not mine alone, but rather the struggle of humanity because religion alone cannot satisfy, and relationship without religion often results in delusion.  Perhaps we need one as much as the other and the two are not opposite ends of a spectrum. Could religion actually provide the support for a spiritual relationship? Perhaps, the issue is not too much of one or the other as much as it is a lack of conjoining the two.

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