Religion or relationship?
Is there a difference between the two?
What does religion mean to you?
The term religion was derived from the Latin word religo to mean obligation, bond, or reverence. Today, religion is a term that is defined as the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods.
So with this definition, do you believe in religion or relationship with God, and is there a difference?
To many Christian millennials, religion is a bad word – one that is not used often when explaining personal belief systems with God. Most millennials believe in and prefer the idea of developing a personal relationship with God over obeying rules and guidelines.
Is this idea biblical?
Let’s turn to a few scriptures in the book of James where this term is explicitly used:
“Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” – James 1:27, KJV
This verse details specifically what pure religion looks like. In this context, James is explaining to a group of Jewish believers how to distinguish pure religion from false religion. So in the context of this scripture of text, James, who was the half brother of Jesus, explains that religion is a good thing when it is pure.
James talks more about this ideology in the previous verse stating,
“If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain.” – James 1:26, KJV
There are many other verses in scripture that site the word “religion.” From the teachings of James, which line up to the teachings of Jesus, I think it can be clearly stated that there are two different types of religion. There is good religion, and then there is bad religion.
So what dictates “good” religion from “bad” religion?
As James explains to us in the bible, religion that shows the true characteristics of God through his son Jesus Christ is labeled as “good”or “pure” religion:
- Speaking the truth
- Showing love and compassion to others
- Being obedient to God’s will
- Living a godly lifestyle
“Bad” religion is religion that is used to deceive and manipulate others for selfish gain.
So the term “religion” is not bad in and of itself, it is the type of religion that is being used or taught that deserves proper attention and analyzation.
In the book of Matthew, Jesus is recorded in many scriptures telling parables of truth with hidden secrets. Of these notable scriptures, two of the verses that stick out very boldly to me when discussing this topic of religion are the ones told in Matthew chapter 7:
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits.” – Matthew 7:15-16, ESV
These scriptures are two of my most favorite scriptures in the New Testament because with them, Jesus explains to us that their will be false teachers. People will use religion to deceive others in the name of God, in an effort to lie to and manipulate others. This is why it is so important for us to develop a close and intimate relationship with God for ourselves.
Never rely on another person for your daily bread – this should come from God and be confirmed by a teacher/preacher of God. (Even me – always go back to God and let him confirm to you what is true and what is not).
So going back to the original “religion or relationship” question asked at the beginning of this discussion, I agree that there is a negative connotation associated with the word “religion,” however, I do not agree or believe that God forces us to choose between the two. This kind of a statement, when taken out of context, sends out the wrong message about religion from God’s perspective.
Religion in and of itself is not bad, and is in fact something that I believe God wants us to have established with him. It is the practice and the teaching of bad religion that is the problem. Being able to discern and decipher the difference between good religion and bad religion is crucial – especially in this day and age. It takes a real and intentional believer to know and pick up the differences.
Does God value relationship? Yes.
Does God value religion? Yes.
In order to serve God under the umbrella of religion, you must first have a relationship with his son Jesus Christ.
This is order.
God is a God of order and structure, and if you are a true believer and walk in the statues and in the ways of Jesus Christ, then you as a witness know this statement to be true. In every relationship, there is balance. We as people value order and structure in our own personal and business relationships, so what makes people think that God does not value the same thing?
Think this over, and let me know what you think about the topic of religion.
Grace and peace fam.
God bless you.