Religion Is The Absence Of Relationships
For a belief system based on relationships, Christianity can easily become a religion. On forms and questionnaires they ask for your religious preference: Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, or other. It has become a way of identifying different beliefs system, categorizing them for institutional purposes, but what would happen if they would just be relationships.
The center of Christianity is the Cross; the center of the Cross is a relationship between a supernatural God and natural man. At the core of Christianity is the miracle of restoration of rebirth: a broken relationship between man and his Godhead due to sin and the restoration of that relationship through Jesus, God’s son, hanging and dyeing on the Cross to amend the sinful nature of man. It is a message of hope to the hopeless and life to the dead. The cross conquered death: “Death where is thy sting?” It restored and offered a “living” relationship to man with his Godhead now guaranteed through eternity, never to be broken again. It is when we, the believers in Jesus Christ, chose to back away from that relationship or sever that relationship that begins to make one’s faith a religion where one “practices his religion”, that is, goes through the motions. It is all activity, all image, with little if any substance. I have found myself falling into that category during my life, and often see the church doing the same. It must have been awkward for Jesus to visit the Temple that no longer had the Ark of the Covenant, God’s Presence, in it, yet its priesthood still “practicing” the customs of Moses, still going through the motions. God’s Presence through His Son Jesus was in their midst, yet their “practice” prevented them from a relationship with their living God, thus the verbal venom Jesus displaced with the “woe to you scribes, Pharisees, and lawyers” of his time who were “practicing” their religion rather than developing relationships.
The other relationship restored in the Cross was the horizontal relationship between mankind. Ever since Cain and Able man has been fighting one another. There is always a war somewhere on this planet bringing devastation between mankind. The Cross was the beginning of the end of that broken relationship, for the New Jerusalem, the new heaven and the new earth, eternity in Jesus is pictured as the lion laying beside the lamb, the cobra beside the ox, enemies now brothers. Where is this restoration to be birthed? I believe in the Church, for we have a Savior who, while hanging on the Cross, proclaimed, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Jesus stopped mankind from playing the “blame game” the core of most conflicts; He extended grace, mercy, and unconditional forgiveness in relationships to, through, and from mankind to one another.
So churches (we) need to stop blaming other churches (them) as not being true to the Christian faith because there is little if any relationships between “opposing” churches in the Body of Christ. Jesus’ prayer in John 17 is for the unity of the body of Christ, not its demise. Churches need to do more than “network” and “tolerate” one another, but lay down their lives for each other in relationship. Within local bodies of Christian faith, believers in Jesus Christ must begin to lay down their lives for one another in relationship if their faith is to produce life.
What better way to do this than through the five fold, where you have different points of views, different passions, different voices, but when “laid down” in “sacrificial, unconditional love” are the very things needed to bring unity and life into the Church! Evangelism through birth or rebirth comes through a relationship between a believer and nonbeliever in Jesus Christ. Shepherding develops nurture, care, and spiritual growth through relationships between believers. Teaching thrives on the “experiencing” of one’s living faith rather than just “knowing about it”. The prophetic develops the relational communication skills needed between God and His people, and the apostolic is all about relationships, tying together, networking, and releasing all this different points of view, passions, and voices in one direction in unity for the spiritual development of its believers into the image of Christ Jesus and for the unity of the entire body.
Without these relationships we can fall in to “practicing our religion”, just going through the motions where one has lost their passion, feel their point of view has been snubbed, and who thinks they have no voice. I find much of the church “practicing” their “religion” when they corporately meet on Sunday mornings, for there sure isn’t a lot of relationships going on vertically or horizontally, but a lot of “practicing”, going through the motions.
Without relationships we end up with religion. Church let’s quit “practicing our religion” but live out our relationships with our God and with our fellow brothers and sisters in the faith, for Jesus has made a way for that to happen. Church, let’s begin listening to the Holy Spirit in how to “work out our salvation” with our God and “work out our relationships” with our brothers and sisters in the faith. When we are serious about doing this, we will witness true revival, rebirth, and renewal through relationships.