The word religion has become somewhat of a negative term in our culture, both in Christian circles and non-Christian circles. As a result, some Christians have sought to distance Christianity from the term religion. Believers will say things like,“It’s not a religion, it is a relationship” or, “Reject religion, embrace Jesus.”
I appreciate the desire of my fellow believers to emphasize the relationship with Jesus that is at the core of Christianity, but Christianity is, and always will be, a religion. And religion, properly defined, is not a bad thing.1 Religion deals with our duty toward God. What we as followers of Christ should claim is that Christianity is a religion that offers a relationship with the Creator of the universe. We do not trust in our religion to save us, but in the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross. Religion becomes a problem when people begin to trust in their outward acts of worship to save them or their legalistic works to make them right with God. Our good works are an outworking of the God who is at work in us.
Yes, Christianity is a religion, but it is a religion that at the core centers on a living, active relationship with Jesus Christ. So Christianity is both a religion and a relationship. I believe to suggest otherwise is to invite confusion.
What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
Courage and Godspeed,
1. James didn't think so! "Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world." (James 1:27)