It’s Relationship, Not Religion
9The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. 10He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. —John 1:9-13
I read a compelling tweet by a pastor in California which said, “Religion does not provide an opportunity to actually know God, and is therefore cruel, powerless, and boring” (Bill Johnson).
Knowing God and being in a relationship with
himis what every human being, whether they’re aware of it or not, is longing for and searching after. What most do to achieve that relationship is to establish some sort of religious observance. The options are literally limitless when you consider all the established world religions and faith systems people are encouraged to create for themselves.
So people go to places of worship and perform rituals. They meditate, read, study, memorize holy books and writings, chant, sing, recite, and sit in silence. People make pilgrimages, go on missions trips, proselytize and teach others about their particular way of getting to “god” or whatever it is they’ve chosen to worship.
Why do people do all this? In the words of the apostle Paul, “That they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him” (Acts 17:27a). But it is a vain hope when religion is the means of seeking. From the beginning, God related to His creation on a personal level. Adam and God walked together in the garden and conversed as one person talks to another.
Throughout Old Testament history, prior to the coming of Christ, God related to His people as Father. He gathered them as a family. He loved them, watched over them, and provided for them. He listened to them and gave them good gifts. It was never because of what they did (religion) but because of His faithful love for them (relationship). The incarnation of Jesus Christ as a human being was all about God relating to us, literally becoming like us, in order to save us. It was the ultimate expression of His love.
That we have taken His love and the offer of a relationship and encumbered it with religion is our own undoing. By creating a set of rules and practices by which we try to gain God’s attention, we actually miss out entirely. Religion is our ineffectual way of getting to God, dependent on what we do. Relationship is His way of getting to us, dependent entirely on what He did. —Todd Dugard
Prayer – Father, You created the world to have a place for mankind so You could have a relationship with us, Your creation. Forgive me for trading in a love relationship with You for a set of rules that I must follow or traditions I must observe in order to have You love me. Help me to be careful not to fall into a worship of tradition. Remind me that grace is something You freely offer in Your Son Jesus Christ, in whose name I pray, Amen.