Monday, December 17, 2012

Christianity is not a Religion!

What is Religion? Here are a few definitions from the dictionary

A set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs. 
a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects:
the practice of religious beliefs; ritual observance of faith 
That sure sounds like Christianity, doesn't it? I mean we all generally believe the same thing (the main thing being that Jesus is God and He died for our sins and then rose again on the third day),  we all typically follow the same moral code, most of us attend church, take communion, practice charity and tithing, celebrate Christian holidays, read our Bibles, do our "devotions" and pray, right? Doesn't that fit the above descriptions of beliefs, practices, moral code and rituals?
But I contend with you that it is man who had made Christianity into a religion, not God. That was never His intention. In fact, I don't think God cares much for religion.  Religion has always been man's attempt to reach God on his own terms. His attempt to somehow make himself more acceptable to God and perhaps win God's favor. Religion has always been man's attempt to manipulate God into doing what he wants.  
Jesus didn't much care for the religious people of his day. A quick browse through the Gospels will reveal that the only times Jesus got really angry were when he confronted the Pharisees and Sadducees, the religions leaders of the day. He even had some colorful names for them:  Vipers, serpents and Whitewashed tombs! 
Abraham, the father of our faith, well understood what religion was. Before God called him, he lived in the land of Ur where they had a god for everything. A god for crops, a god for cattle, a god for business deals, a god for healing, a god for a new baby...  and on it went. All the people had to do to get the particular blessing they wanted was to do something that would please the god of that blessing.  In effect, they could work to recieve a blessing. They could manipulate their gods. 

But don't we do that today? Don't we behave like good little Christians, reading our Bibles, saying our prayers, going to church whenever the doors open, volunteering, tithing, etc..  in order for God to bless us? We may not admit it right out, but deep down, don't we sometimes think that God will surely take note of what good followers we are!  I remember one time I was at a very prominent Christian conference and the speaker told everyone to put all the money they had in the wallet into an envelope and write their prayer request on the outside and turn it in.  She said God would surely grant our request because of our act of faith.  I wonder how many of you have encountered something similar?  So many preachers have twisted Scripture out of context by telling you that if you do X, Y, and Z, God will answer your prayer.  We've become little religious robots,  performing tricks to get God's attention.

But God isn't like that. When God called Abraham out of Ur, it wasn't so Abraham could preform a bunch of rituals or sacrifice a bunch of cows. He wasn't interested in Abraham's performance. He didn't choose him because he had special talents or skills. God was interested in Abraham. He chose him because he loved him and wanted to have a relationship with him.  Later on after Abraham had walked with God many years, he was called "the friend of God" .  Friends don't manipulate one another. Friends hang out and enjoy each others' company. Friends trust each other because friends know each other.

God can not be manipulated. Not by ritual or tithing or even devotion.  God is not impressed with your efforts. He does not care how often you appear in church or how many verses you've memorized or how much money you give to charity. Yes, he takes note of it if you do it with the right intentions, but He isn't adding up points so He can bless you. If you are His child, He wants to bless you anyway. Why? Because He loves you. 

He wants a relationship with you. That's why He sent His son, Jesus, to pay the price to get rid of the one thing that was keeping us from knowing Him. Our failings, our mistakes, our sin. Once Jesus paid that price and rose again, all who receive Him can now have a one-on-one relationship with God, the Father.  That's it! That's all Christianity is!  It's not a set of rules, not church attendance, not rituals, not performance. It's just walking with God. It's getting to know Him.

Abraham spent years walking with God and during that time, he learned to trust God so much that he was willing to kill his own son at God's command because he knew God either wouldn't let it happen or He would raise Issac back from the dead. Why did he know this? Because he knew God's character. His goodness, kindness, faithfulness, trustworthiness. And you can only know those things by becoming a friend of God. 

So, shrug off that cloak of religion, grab a cup of coffee (or tea)  and just hang out with God. He's waiting. !


  1. Mon Dec 17th,
    "Morning, MaryLu."
    Thank-you for today's blog. All I can say to it is: "Amen, and, Amen" to all that you shared !
    We're in a 'relationship' with God ... and He loves us, just because He loves us !!! What a Lord we serve !!!
    Take care, and, God Bless,
    In Him, Brenda Hurley

  2. Amen from me too! Well said MaryLu. It's so true! How great it is that we can have relationship with God. He's not untouchable. He's not a genie. He's not an ogre. He's our brother, friend, lover of our souls. :)
    Amen, Brenda - What a Lord we serve!

  3. Awesome post MaryLu. So well said. I grew up Catholic but left the church in my early 20's after discovering a "non-denominational" church. A "religion" can be comforting because so many of us find it easy to follow rules; especially when we believe we will be blessed more for following them. I could go on about other popular religions, but Catholicism is that I know...knew. I'm thankful to be religion free and God fulfilled!
    ~Janelle Marie

  4. While I understand what you are saying, and agree with most of it, I am going to have to respectfully disagree with the statement "Christianity is not a religion."

    My belief is that Christianity is a religion, that absolutely involves a relationship with Christ. We are sinful, depraved people and we turn the religion into all those things you mentioned. But even though we might screw it up, it doesn’t change the fact that Christianity is still a religion, because it set of beliefs.

    There are lots of different religious groups out there who would claim to be Christian, but they deny many of the orthodox beliefs of Christianity. I think that sometimes the term "it’s not a religion, it’s a relationship" really gives people a right to go on their own terms to God, because it internalizes everything, and who can argue with feelings and emotions? I think that is a big reason why some people disregard obvious teachings from the Bible, because they don’t "feel like it is true." I want to make it clear I do not believe that a person has to follow a certain rituals to be a Christian. I do believe that they have to put their faith in Christ, believe that he fully God and yet fully man, lived a perfect life, was crucified for our sins, rose from the dead and now lives at the right hand of God. That we are saved purely by the grace of God, through faith in Christ, and that all human works merit us nothing.

    I think we forget that the church is still made up of sinners, and because of that, even the church will have problems. We shouldn’t cast of a word because it has negative connotations attached to it. We should claim it back from those people who screwed it up, and keep our guard up, stay in the Word, and continue to preach Christ crucified!

    I hope that makes sense to you, MaryLu! I have a hard time putting my thoughts into words sometime! And I hope I did not offend anyone, that wasn't my goal. As I said, I understand where Christian get this idea from! :)

  5. Thanks for all your comments and thoughts, ladies!! Emma, I think I understand where you are coming from and I believe we are on the same page! Perhaps it's just a problem with semantics and definition. Religion to me means man's efforts to be good enough to reach God. In that sense, Christianity is not a religion.

    If by religion, you mean a set of beliefs, then yes, I'll agree with you that Christianity is that. But it is so much more!!

    When I advocate that it is a relationship with God, I'm not in any way saying that is based on emotions. In fact, feelings are but a small part of that relationship. No relationship can last if it depends on emotions. The relationship I'm talking about is deep, minute by minute, and abiding.
    Plus I'm in no way saying people shouldn't go to church, read their Bible.. give to charity.. I'm just saying those things should never be a means for man to reach God.

    Anyway, I truly appreciate your thoughts!! And I believe we are in agreement for the most part. I want you and everyone else to feel this is a safe place to voice your opinions.. God Bless!

  6. I wholeheartedly agree with everything you said! :) Thanks, I really enjoyed reading this!