Friday, November 10, 2006

The False Dichotomy of Religion vs. Relationship

I recently came across a church website that had two interesting items in their forums section. One as a thread that the leaders had posted entitled “Relationship vs. Religion” which is the classic Evangelical saw denouncing first the Pharisees and then anyone who has an over structured church life. I understand the point that Jesus came to restore humanity’s relationship God and that he often railed against the religious leaders of his day because they honored traditional religious practice over God’s desire. On the other hand, this misses the point of having a body. It seems to state that what we do and how we live are not as important as the fact that we are in relationship with God, presumably through things that we do…

The second item in the forum was a post about a series the church is doing on spiritual disciples. Now, if Christianity is about relationship and not religion and the spiritual disciples (prayer, meditation, solitude, simplicity, fasting, worship, service, etc.) are actions and practices, then I see a conflict. Many of us X-ers and millennials are drawn to practices of the historical church as outline in the spiritual disciples. I have come to believe that, as Doug Pagitt aptly puts, “We have to live a certain way to live a certain way.” In other words we have to order and structure our lives around practices that make our relationship with God actual and not simply something that we feel. God gave the Israelites many practices that to our contemporary mind can seem illogical. When we look at the requirements for Yom Kippur (the annual Day of Atonement) it can seem quite daunting. What are we to make of this? The New Testament puts it this way: “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.” (Col 3:17.) When God gave the Israelites the laws to live by he was telling them that everything that they do matters to him and is to be an act of worship. For us today, it is important in how we order our lives and what practices we live out. If we seek to live out the life of Jesus in our context we must begin to ask ourselves how we are structuring our lives.

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