Christianity: Is it a “Religion” or a “Relationship”?

The following was originally a reply to some negative comments and questions on FaceBook regarding this Youtube video:

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=1IAhDGYlpqY#!

 

By the definition I memorized long ago from a dictionary (Webster’s?), it is still a religion. According to that definition, a religion is a belief system around one or more gods or deities and has a number of followers or believers. Very basic definition. What we really mean to say is that, unlike all of the OTHER religions on the planet, the God of this one is “living” and actually can see, hear, speak, act, move, and have a relationship with us, and so much more. And all those other religions have gods that are distant to us and don’t seem to really care about us and we can’t know them or get to know them (we can’t really know what they’re like), when the God of the Bible is calling us into a personal, loving and intimate relationship/friendship with Him, through Christ, who reveals God to us and showed us what He is like while He was on earth. The video is perhaps more of a comparison/contrast (not scholarly or in great detail) as to the difference between the real religion and some of the characteristics of false religion, some of which he mentions include: relying on self or your own works to save you, judging others as horrible sinners and yourself as a righteous law keeper when in reality you ain’t no different or better and you’re not showing the love of Christ by looking down on others, and etc etc etc. I’d like to add “any organization or church that claims it’s the only way to God.” But you get the point. It’s more about putting down the absence of love in other religions, probably more likely Christian churches that have lost sight or never had their sight set on imitating Christ and His love for others, while lifting up the belief in a loving God who wants a personal relationship with us. Not a distant, cold God, but a warm and close God.

But for me? For me I never knew why we as Christians claimed our faith wasn’t a religion but a relationship for many years. I just repeated and thought I was right, which although I was right it was just plain ignorant for me to repeat and back up things I didn’t understand and couldn’t even begin to back up or defend. For me, I realized within the past couple of years what that meant and really thought hard about my life experiences. I originally had a weak, blind faith but now I have a strong seeing, knowing faith. I accepted Christ as Savior when I was 14 years old in the fall of 1999, not through any person but a sudden realization that I was a sinner and a realization of what that meant before a righteous God. I picked up a Bible and started reading and it lead to me accepting Christ. Not important to bring up, but I like the fact that my salvation has absolutely no denominational ties or any human person leading me to faith in Jesus. Getting on with my story, and skipping a whole mess of details here and there, when I was 17 something happened. Up until this point I really struggled with whether or not God really was real. I had weak faith and sometimes fought hard not to lose my faith. Although I strongly loved the Lord and believed He really was real and rewards those who diligently seek Him, I would sometimes be attacked by ferocious mental doubts. The doubtful thoughts I battled with occasionally reasoned within me that without proof, I really still didn’t know. I had blind faith and I knew it. But when I was 17, while watching a movie with friends in September of … 2002, on a Tuesday (you don’t forget CRAZY things like this), an incredible feeling of weight fell over me and I felt something weird bubbling up through me and, upon reaching my brain, forming these words: “I am the Lord your God. You are My missionary. You serve Me.” I couldn’t deny what was happening, as freaky as it was, and my mind raced. I felt like I had to give an answer. He was forcing me to. I had no other choice. I really didn’t want to say yes but I really didn’t want to tell my Lord, the God and creator of the entire universe (you don’t say no to the hand that feeds), no. I loved and wanted to obey Him. I felt like I sat there, sobbing my head off, for 30 minutes. It was probably just 10 minutes, if even that. To this day I wonder if my friends thought I was losing it or not. Fortunately, God planned it out so that this happened during a really sad part of the movie… “Thank you, Lord, for not completely embarrassing me in front of my friends, lol.” The weight kept on me and I felt like I couldn’t move at all whatsoever, I wasn’t really conscious much of what I was seeing (which already happens normally as I have ADD and zone out constantly) and kept staring and sobbing toward the floor. Finally, I uttered one word: “Yes, Lord.” It was exactly then that suddenly the weight lifted off of me and I could move again (and stop sobbing like a pathetic baby). Although I have not heard from God like this too often in my life, this would be only the first contact. Fitting that He introduced Himself the first time; I suppose that’s only polite of a person the first time they speak to someone. I want to note that this is the time in my life when I went from blind faith, struggling not to give up believing, and actual seeing/knowing faith, like doubting Thomas. By the way, you might find it interesting how I reacted to this: I became an atheist. Yeah… That didn’t work well for me. I had always wanted to be a cartoonist and obviously a mysterious voice in my head saying what it did and addressing itself as God is just a little freaky. I REALLY didn’t want to be a missionary back then, to put it bluntly. It was my life and I was very selfish with it. I said “yes” initially, but I ran. I convinced myself that it was my imagination brought on by high emotions at the time because of the movie and that I could do whatever I wanted to do with my life. But I knew that was a lie, so I became an atheist instead. It was the only option I felt available to me to try to block out or ignore what happened. But then God spoke to me again. I remember driving home from high school one day when God started speaking: “No matter how much you deny My existence, I am real. As a matter of fact, I am living inside of you.” I remember refusing to answer the voice (it would be crazy to speak to someone who isn’t real, even if they are speaking to you first) and staring cold and dead at the road and continuing feeling cold and dead throughout the evening. I spent the rest of the day just laying in bed and occasionally staring at my Bible which sat across the room, being very afraid. But that story doesn’t end there and ends up leading me to being subpoenaed by a cop and a trial before I ever return to God and admit He’s real; by that time I am 18 years old. I’ve decided to start a blog or write a book about these things. Maybe I’ll delve further there. What happened though is that God allowed things to run their course until I needed Him. Bad. But, anyway… Throughout the next 10 years I have seen God do some amazing things in my life, and in the lives of others, especially these past 2 years. I hear from Him every now and then, even replying to questions I have about what He thinks about something as mundane as my SuperMilo webcomic (obviously no crazy new revelations. I’m not a false prophet or anyone who’s ever going to start some crazy new denomination or church sect or anything). But things just seem to fall into place! Completely unrelated events suddenly become incredibly and amazingly intertwined and connected with each other. The events mesh together so tightly they’re like puzzle pieces! So much in fact that “coincidence” seems absurd at times. I can look back and suddenly make sense of events. Why they happened and why they had to happen then and in that way. Because one thing happened, it either prevented a disaster or leads the way for another event to fall neatly into place. What seems like a loss or horrible thing is proven later to have been exactly what was needed for something even better to occur. I’m sure you’ve seen these kinds of things or heard about them. They’re interesting, but not always necessarily any proof of divine providence. But because I’ve experienced it, especially in the past 2 years, I know exactly what it means to have a personal relationship with God/Jesus Christ. He’s a God who actually occasionally speaks back to us and is constantly working in our lives! He has a plan for our lives and it’s incredible seeing it all come together! I think it was in Jeremiah that He said to a certain people, “I have plans for you. Plans to give you a hope and good future.” I’ve only recently started being open with others about how God spoke to me when I was younger (which is I think a good thing that I waited). I was afraid to as I feared most people would think I was either crazy, lying, trying to use it as leverage or proof of some sort of false authority I had, or having a “holier-than-thou” attitude. But it’s not because of who I am or anything I’ve ever done or will ever do or become, but because of who He is that He chooses to talk to us and have a personal relationship with us! That’s just how much He loves us and wants to be a part of our lives. I’m nothing special; He could if He desired to start talking to just anyone anywhere at any time. And since I stopped being afraid to share what God has done in my life, I actually found out that this is actually more common than I thought for God to speak to or work in the lives of His children. It turns out that most Christians are just too afraid to talk about it, just like me. I actually found out that my best friend and fiancé have had similar experiences. My fiancé even experienced the same weight I did and it didn’t lift off until she said “yes” too (this was actually her salvation, she says, and the question was to let God in and to start that relationship; amazingly this was the same month I started sending her messages online to ask her out; to which her first reply was an entire year later, the same month). Ah, but that’s not my story to tell. Anyway, sorry that I drifted off topic and wrote a very long post. I think I will use it to start writing my blog. I get very passionate about these things and lose myself in my writing. I’ve been thinking a lot about these things lately, which didn’t help.

But I believe the conclusion is this: the video is very nice to some people. I like it. But I feel that it perhaps doesn’t capture what it truly means to have a personal relationship with God. You have to experience that relationship before you can truly understand it. He doesn’t leave us down here to fend for ourselves alone. He’s with us every step of the way and when He chooses to He even talks to us, making our prayers two-way instead of one-way. This relationship begins with trust, which is the foundation of even human relationships. Earlier we used a definition of religion that I memorized and paraphrased through the years. Now I’ll get the definition of a relationship from the web (ala “define: relationship” in the Google search bar):

 

re·la·tion·ship/riˈlāSHənˌSHip/

 

Noun:

1. The way in which two or more concepts, objects, or people are connected, or the state of being connected.

2. The state of being connected by blood or marriage.

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