And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. (Hebrews 11:6 NASB)
Religion: 1) The state of a religious (person); 2) a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices; 3) scrupulous conformity; 4) a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith. (Merriam Webster Dictionary)
Relationship: 1) The state of being related or interrelated; 2) the relation connecting or binding participants in a relationship, such as: a) kinship, or b) a specific instance or type of kinship; 3) a) a state of affairs existing between those having relations or dealings b) a romantic or passionate attachment. (Merriam Webster Dictionary)
You’ve all heard it, “It’s not about a religion, it’s about a relationship.” You’ve probably even said it. The problem is that it isn’t exactly true.
The truth is more toward a blending of the two than one over the other. The way that Scripture describes the Creator and His people, there is both a relationship, and religious practice. What is often missed, especially by the people on the pages, is that the the religious practice is about maintaining the relationship.
Not to oversimplify, but the practice of faith is mostly about “problem” and “solution”. The problem is what’s wrong with our relationship with our Creator, and the solution is what’s being done about it. Like a marriage, either we’re working on improving the relationship, or we’re letting it die. Relationships don’t remain idle.
From the definition of religion above, there are two basic elements required: belief, and practice. From the definition of relationship there are also two basic elements required: relation, and participants. In Hebrews 11:6, we can find all four elements.
And without faith <belief> it is impossible to please Him <practice>, for he who comes to God <participants> must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him <relation>. (Hebrews 11:6 NASB)
Followers of Jesus exist in a religious relationship with Him. It can also be said that followers of Jesus pursue a relational religion of Him. He is the Participant, and the Object. He makes the relationship possible, and we act out our belief within that relationship.
The primary problem is that He has the entire universe on his workbench as some sort of spinning decoration, and we’re infinitesimally small within that. We can’t get out to Him, He has to come within to us. It has to be our Creator who initiates the relationship. We’re stuck with that. What we do once He has is up to us.
But once in this relationship, we discover there are “rules”, that our Creator has established boundaries. Think through that verse again. We please Him. We seek Him, and He rewards us. The give and take elements of a relationship are there, but it’s truly about Him. Why?
A relationship with our Creator has to be about Him. He is “out there” where we can’t go. It’s either His route or no route. We won’t find Him accidentally, invade His space, or stumble through to His existence. In order to get to Him, we need to follow His rules.
Sometimes people get so stuck on the problem that we have to follow His rules they forget He provided rules. Think about that for a sec: The Creator of the universe provides a way for us to know Him. We can’t get off this rock to get to Him (or anywhere, for that matter), and we pout because He didn’t provide the way we wanted? We matter to Him, but that’s not enough. Let’s be honest, we can’t be trusted to leave this rock. We belong in a playpen.
But why do His “rules” include a cross? Ah, yes, why indeed? I’ll explore that next week. Along with more of the “Gideon Saga”.
So, what’s your view of God through the fence?