I know I do, in spite of the fact that I am told that Christianity is a “relationship not a religion.”
Religion is not a bad thing. Religion is the system of practices that guide people in worship and grow in their knowledge of God. In other words, religion is how we have a relationship with God.
We are not to avoid religion, but the religious spirit. This is what Jesus condemned in the religious leaders of his day. These leaders put a greater emphasis on following the regulations and rituals of their religion than truly having faith in God.
The basic handbook of our religion is the Bible. In the Bible we discover certain rituals that were handed down by God. This is especially true with Judaism. The books of Exodus and Leviticus contain the rules and regulations of how Israel was to relate to God. A person cannot help but notice as they read through these books that God was very specific on how things should be done.
As Christians we know there are two very important rituals that are to be part of lives: Communion and baptism. While many of the old Jewish rituals and feasts we laid aside after the death and resurrection of Jesus, these two rituals were commanded by Jesus for his followers to observe.
Some of these rituals that make up religion are the result of tradition and are the product of human ideas of what should be done in order to relate to God. They have little or no Scriptural base, but they are accepted because that is how things have been done, and people have found value in them.
These things include observing Christmas and Easter, two Christian holidays that are not mentioned in Scripture. They also include church buildings, the order of our worship services, and the liturgy that we used.
Besides helping us relate to God, religion has another purpose for our lives. That purpose is to help us change.
I can’t speak for other religions, but the purpose of Christianity isn’t just about having a relationship with God, but it is also about helping us become the people God created us to be. In other words, our religion is to be a catalyst for life change.
Read what James had to say about religion:
If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless. Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you (James 1:26-27; NLT).
James spent much of the first chapter of his book talking about how trials, God’s wisdom, and God’s Word are needed to help us become the people God created us to be, because sin has corrupted us. What James points out in these two verses is the truth that going through the motions of religion, doing the rituals and the traditions, is not the same thing as changing. If we can’t learn self-control, if we can’t have compassion for the needy, and if we cannot remain pure in this sinful world than our religion is worthless.
The only way religion has any effect on us, this is also true for trials and God’s Word, is if we first commit ourselves to being faithful. Faith, our choice to commit and trust God, is what makes the difference. Without faith religion is just empty rituals and traditions. Without faith the trials and tragedies of life serve no purpose. Without faith God’s wisdom, which is found in His Word, is nothing more than a nice way to live.
Faith, our trust in God, is what makes all the difference. God cannot change our lives, cannot restore us to true life, until we trust Him. So in the end it isn’t about being a religious person, but it is about being a faithful person.
Two questions we have to consider are: Who am I faithful to? Will I trust Him with my life?
If the answers aren’t Jesus and yes, our religion just might be worthless.