Religion or Christianity?
“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me’.” John 14:6 (NIV)
A couple of years ago I was on a flight back East and my seat mate commented on the book I was reading (Jesus: The Great Debate by Grant Jeffrey). If you haven’t read it I highly recommend getting a copy. You can find it here.
“Interesting book?” my seat mate asked.
“Yes,” I answered simply. As my wife can tell you, I’m not usually big on small talk while traveling!
“I’m not really religious,” the person next to me said.
“Me neither,” I responded.
My seat mate looked at me oddly.
“You’re not?” they asked.
I paused a moment, considering how to answer. It was a question I had heard many times, in many different ways – usually with a hint of skepticism.
“No, not really,” I answered.
“But you’re reading a book about Jesus?”
“Yes. I’m Christian.”
“What’s the difference?” my companion asked.
This was one of those perfect moments Believers are sometimes called to answer, a moment to share the true Gospel.
My reply was similar to what follows, with a bit more emphasis (it was a long flight, after all).
Religion and Christianity are two entirely different things. Just as being “spiritual” is different from being a Christ follower. Indeed, Jesus himself taught against the “religious” leaders of his day.
Simply stated, “religion” is our attempt to find God, or “the sacred,” or “the divine.” It requires us to do something to change our state in a way that make us acceptable to a higher power or to find meaning in the human existence. Thus, the very act of being “religious” creates the potential for an unlimited number of “religions.”
We hear this in the words of modern spiritualists such as “there are as many ways to God as there are people.” Taken to an extreme, this means whatever I believe about God, or the Creator, whatever term I use, is just as valid as any other belief. I define God and therefore I define my faith.
On the other hand, Christianity – our faith built on the belief that mankind’s nature is inherently flawed and salvation is only possible through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ – is fundamentally different. Christianity, properly understood, is not a religion. It isn’t founded in our attempt to find or reach God. Rather, it is built on the simple yet profoundly beautiful idea that God is reaching for us.
Christianity is centered on the concept that a perfect, all-powerful God loved His creation so much that He forgave our rebellious nature and revealed His divine nature to us by taking human form in the person of His son Jesus Christ. Through the example of Jesus’ life, we see how to live a life truly pleasing to God, rather than attempting to define that life by our standards.
The various “religions” of the world require us to do something to become “right” with God. They demand activities or actions. We must prove ourselves worthy.
Christianity requires no such proofs of worthiness. The sole requirement for salvation is to accept and believe that a single person – Jesus Christ – has gone before us, paid the price of our insufficiencies, and now stands before God on our behalf. He has redeemed the penalty of our sins and shortcomings. (Ephesians 2:8 ESV)
It’s a stunning, freeing message! And yet it is not without cost.
God wants us to do more than simply be assured of His forgiveness. He asks us to work with Him, every day, every moment, to discern the life He has designed for us to live. He asks us to come to Him, to trust in Him, in all things. (James 2:20 ESV)
Ultimately, religion is about us. Christianity is about God.
It’s an easy choice!
May God continuously lead your path.