Religion or Relationship

A Facebook friend asked about our opinions on the difference between religion and relationship. I have to admit, that’s one of my favorite Christian discussions. You see for a long time I lived under the umbrella of religion. I knew all the rules and I was pretty good at following them. I think if you asked my parents, I may have been called a model child. Not that I never did anything wrong, but in the grand scheme of problem children, I was low on the list. And as far as following the rules of religion, I had it down. I didn’t drink or smoke. I’ve never touched drugs. I was in church every Sunday. I won every Bible challenge. I memorized the books of the Bible, the 23rd Psalm and the ten commandments at a very young age. I didn’t even fuss about having to go to church. My road to being the best at religion was going so well until I was about 17.

Yep, I was pretty young when I began to understand the problem the Israelites had. I didn’t know it at the time, but as I’ve grown in Christ, I see that my life was exactly the life of Israel. Israel was good at following the rules for a long time, too. But rules are tough, and it’s easy to make excuses for sin that doesn’t seem to hurt anyone else. So just before my eighteenth birthday I got married because just after my eighteenth birthday I had a baby. And while I am thankful for my husband of 35 years, and I would have married him anyway, the reason for our marriage at that moment was so I could get back on track to following the rules.

It’s not that I’d never been introduced to relationship. Looking back I saw my grandmother live out relationship. Plus, I had a tremendous pastor for a very short time in my teens, Rev. Rod Buchanan, whom lived out relationship. Both planted seeds and gave me good examples of what the Christian life could look like. But because I’d broken one of the big rules, and neither of these tremendous mentors were around when I broke it, I left the church for a few years. Because of religion, I was confident that I didn’t deserve to be in church. Church was a place for the people who followed the rules . . . that’s what religion taught me. And I had messed up. In my mind, I’d messed up so bad it couldn’t be fixed. The worst part about that whole time is that no one came to tell me any different. I had been active in church for 18 years and not one person came to tell me that my religion was useless, no one told me to abandon my religious rules for relationship.

Until I met a group of ladies in Rome, New York. This group began to show me what Rod and my grandmother knew. They began to help me on my journey toward relationship.

My new “catch-phrase” since I began to have a relationship is this “No Rules, Just Jesus.” You see. When I have a relationship, I don’t need rules because my life choices are dictated by wanting to maintain my relationship. I don’t want to do something that will make God sad. I don’t want to disappoint Him. Part of really coming to relationship was me understanding that getting pregnant outside of marriage wasn’t my biggest sin. My biggest sin was dismissing things that separate me from God and ignoring the fact that the only thing that can bring me back into relationship is the blood of Jesus Christ.

I am now in awe of what Christ has done for me. I now appreciate everything that my dearest friend has done to show his love. Now I am aware that He is always with me. The verse, “I will never leave you or forsake you” is personal.

Living according to the rules is hard. Israel couldn’t do it. I couldn’t do it, and many more folks that I’ve met can’t be “good.” But a relationship with the only perfect person is much easier. He always has my best interest in mind, and every faux pas is from my side, yet He understands, loves me and forgives me as long as I have a heart willing to maintain the relationship. It’s beautiful. It’s simple, yet it’s so far beyond human understanding that many times we miss it. I’m so glad my Creator called me to it and sent people into my life to help bring me to Him.

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