I’ve often heard the token phrase that “Christianity is not a religion it’s a relationship.” However, I’ve often been quite perplexed by this phrase because it seems dismissive of the thought and articulation of the Christian Faith throughout Church History. Christianity begins with the ministry and life of Jesus Christ upon the foundation of the TaNaKh or Old Testament which is a collection of texts containing historical records, prophetic utterances, judgments against God’s people, and narratives of various kinds throughout. The Old Testament, cannot be, entirely divorced from Christianity, such an attitude was condemned very early in the Christian chronology (See: Marcionism). In fact, Christ Himself declares that He is on earth to fulfill the law and not to destroy it. The Law in this context refers to the commandments laid out for humankind through God’s specific revelation to the Israelite people throughout time. The Law establishes a religious tone for the bedrock of Christianity, in essence, without the religious components of the Old Testament the relationship offered and described through the New Testament makes little to no sense.
Over the past 16 days, I have spent time with 33 other students and 4 professors experiencing the heritage of the Baptist and Protestant faith throughout England and Scotland. The most critical observation that I have walked away with is that Christ must be at the center of any religion if it is to be considered true. Christianity is not a religion that calls people to earn their salvation as many other religions do, nor does Christianity teach people to pursue the eastern ideas of nirvana or some sort of spiritual ascension. Christianity teaches that God saves His creation through the Cross of Jesus Christ and that not all will be saved in the final judgment for it is only through believing in Christ that one can be saved.
These notions of being saved and being broken do not fit well into the narrative of Christianity as a relationship, it makes God too human. It confines God to a box that doesn’t demand any sort of reverence or fear from those who claim to love Him. Christianity must be engaged as a religion, something that completely orients life on the foundation of the revelation of what God has said. Christianity is not just between you and God like so many would like to believe. Christianity is communal. Christianity is social. Christianity is practical. Christianity is inconvenient. Christianity involves suffering. Christianity changes you from the inside out because God changes you. God makes you alive through the covenant promise offered through Christ on the Cross.
The reformers spoke much of true and false religion; they saw God’s word centered Christ as the anchor point of true religion. We must be careful that in our pursuit of evangelism, we do not drift away from the very centerpoint of the Christian Religion. Christ is the center of our life. We must not forget this truth. Cast your eyes to Calvary. Cast your soul before your Father in Heaven.
What is at the center of your faith? What is the cornerstone? Where do you find your hope? Where do you find your comfort? Where do you find peace?