Religion vs. Relationship

Written November 3, 2010.

If you’re looking for an intelligent 3-point essay with contractions cut out and clarification of “it”, this is not that essay. But a lot of imbalance issues have been plaguing me lately (hopefully I’ll get them all articulated and posted eventually), and tonight I was listening to Way FM and a Jason Gray song came on that made me think, “Okay, I can’t stand this anymore – I gotta get this out there.”

So… “No religion, just a relationship.” Where did this come from in the last few years? Sounds like a slogan straight from the era of peace, love, flowers, and doped-up hippies on weed. Yet I’m seeing it on bumper stickers and facebook profiles and hearing it from song lyrics and sermons as Christians everywhere rush to get on the bandwagon. It’s as if “religion” has become some sort of frumpy, un-cool thing that only monks do – and nobody wants to be a monk. “Relationship,” on the other hand – it’s exciting and vibrant, not boring or legalistic. defines religion as “something one believes in and follows devotedly.” There’s nothing about monks there. Yet for some reason, people are considering “religion” stale and out of date, believing it’s time to dispense with the intellectual and apologetic side of religion, emphasizing instead a dreamy and feel-good state of mind.

As Jason Gray’s song puts it: “All religion ever made of me was just a sinner with a stone tied to my feet. [So we don’t want to be bound to Jesus? Is this an open relationship, friends with benefits type of thing?] It never set me free; it’s gotta be more like falling in love than something to believe in, more like losing my heart than giving my allegiance.” No allegiance? What is this no-strings-attached garbage? Maybe I dreamed up Jesus saying “Leave everything, take up your cross, and follow me.” Oh wait, I didn’t – here it is in Luke 9:23. If that’s not giving allegiance, I’m not sure what is.

Example number two: in the movie To Save a Life, Jake tells Chris, the youth pastor, that he’s not a religious person. Chris responds, “Neither am I.” Going strictly by definition here, if a youth pastor doesn’t “believe in” and “devotedly follow” Christ, we’ve got one heck of a problem.

I’m not hating; I’m sure Jason Gray means well, and I bought To Save a Life the day it came out because it’s an amazing movie with a powerful message. Don’t let my sarcasm from the soapbox make you think I don’t believe in having a relationship with God. Quite the contrary, over the past few months I have come to know God on a personal level more deeply than ever before, and I’m far from being a legalist. I’ll be the first to admit that sometimes it’s good to let go of your intellect and worship God unrestrainedly with your heart and your emotions.

It’s not a terminology problem, folks. I wouldn’t even classify it as a mentality problem. No, what we have here is a balance problem. We’ve gotten tired of solemn, ritualistic religion. Trying to combat a lethargic church, we’ve played up the relationship aspect to make it more personal. That’s a good thing – but the pendulum has swung too far the other direction, and now we have too much of a good thing. We’ve cracked open the door for emotions to come in, but now, emboldened by the opening, a tidal wave of new-age philosophy is trying to rip the door off its hinges.

When this mentality seeps in, it’s hard to know where to draw the line. Don’t settle for stuffy religion, but be on your guard against the false doctrine of a noncommittal, feelings-only relationship. Extremes on either side are unnecessary and unhealthy, as religion and relationship are not mutually exclusive; Christianity is a perfect blend of intellect and emotion. Stop the pendulum, find a balance, and stand your ground.

Published in: on April 9, 2011 at 12:26 pm  Leave a Comment  
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