Christianity is not religion, its relationship. Let me say it again; Christianity is not religion, its relationship! Some things need to sink in somewhat. For many people, even it seems many Christians, Christianity can be everything but what it is really meant to be, which is an intimate walk with God, mediated by Jesus. What passes for Christianity in the world is often watered-down, religion that presses some of the buttons, seems good if not examined too closely, but which in the end always fails to fulfil and truly satisfy. This is why I think some very religious people can be very judgemental, can mix up what is in the world with their faith, and get caught up in things which God does not want those He calls to get mixed up in. Christianity summed up is simply a relationship, yes even an intimate friendship with Jesus, on a daily on-going basis. In British vernacular Jesus is meant to be our best mate! ‘There is nothing I cannot do in the One who strengthens me.’ (Philippians 4:13 NJB)
Christianity isn’t something that you put on or off as the mood takes you, it isn’t private faith, it isn’t something that kind of exists on Sunday, it isn’t a nice warm feeling, it isn’t feeling smug or superior, it is reality. Some Christians, even those with important positions in the Church, have said before today that they don’t believe in the virgin birth, or they struggle with the Bible story, and so on. When someone asks for proof of God, I suggest you tell them to look in the mirror! We are an amazing creation; how could we have just evolved in some haphazard and uncontrolled way when most of us are physically perfect, a breath-taking creation, the crown of creation. God is real, always present and has a role in the world right now. He isn’t some far off bearded bloke in the clouds, absent-minded and forgetful, or a mere fantasy someone dreamed up to frighten us; He is a real being. He is the one true God. ‘Never has anyone heard, no ear has heard, no eye has seen any god but you act like this for the sake of those who trust him. You come to meet those who are happy to act uprightly; keeping your ways reminds them of you. Yes, you have been angry and we have been sinners; now we persist in your ways and we shall be saved.’ (Isaiah 64:3-4 NJB)
There are many beliefs in the world, many religious disciplines to follow, many religions seemingly to choose from. Who do you believe, after all? Are they all right, and if so how can they be? Whose truth is the truth? Some people claim that all religions are correct, they all lead to the same truth; sort of. Some people say that most religions have something in them that is good. Others dismiss it all as cosmic hogwash! Yes, there are and have been many holy men and women, some forgotten now and others the prophets of diverse religions. Only Jesus ever said He was the door to God, only He proclaimed to be truth, only He said He was life. ‘Jesus said: I am the Way; I am Truth and Life. No one can come to the Father except through me.’ (John 14:6 NJB)
It’s, Above All, Love
‘Though I command languages both human and angelic -- if I speak without love, I am no more than a gong booming or a cymbal clashing. And though I have the power of prophecy, to penetrate all mysteries and knowledge, and though I have all the faith necessary to move mountains -- if I am without love, I am nothing.’ (1 Corinthians 13:1-2 NJB) We sometimes see those who are powerful in the established churches and denominations, or important people who claim to be believers, doing and saying things that do not emanate from a position or standpoint of love. Often religion, yet again, seems to be much more about powerful, important and even wealthy people, than it does about those who simply practise their faith everyday. Religion can be impersonal at best, but what else could an intimate relationship be based on other than love? So love is the answer. ‘Now we see only reflections in a mirror, mere riddles, but then we shall be seeing face to face. Now I can know only imperfectly; but then I shall know just as fully as I am myself known. As it is, these remain: faith, hope and love, the three of them; and the greatest of them is love.’ (1 Corinthians 13:12-13 NJB)
It’s Not Religion
Religion might mean people involving themselves in things, rituals, performances, and doing things that they think God might want us to do. A faith initiated by God on the other hand couldn’t be more different. In the first place, He approaches us, He loved us before we even existed. Instead of being religious, perhaps we need to understand what Christianity is all about. Religion constricts, whereas faith in Jesus frees us. We were always meant to live in peace, in abundance, in happiness and with joy unending. God is our Father, who wants only the best for us, regardless of who we are, where we come from, whatever social status we might have and irrespective of any difference from any other person whatsoever. ‘I have let myself be approached by those who did not consult me, I have let myself be found by those who did not seek me. I said, 'Here I am, here I am!' to a nation that did not invoke my name.’ (Isaiah 65:1 NJB)
It’s Not Controlling Other People
‘I urge you, brothers, be on your guard against the people who are out to stir up disagreements and bring up difficulties against the teaching which you learnt. Avoid them. People of that sort are servants not of our Lord Christ, but of their own greed; and with talk that sounds smooth and reasonable they deceive the minds of the unwary.’ (Romans 16:17-18 NJB) Let’s be honest here; there are many in the churches who seem to gravitate to positions of power simply because they want to control or manipulate people in some way, those who use religion to gain control of other people, or to gain power and even wealth. This is what we are warned about quite frankly. I’m not saying that every Christian leader is like this, because they aren’t, but we should always be forewarned about such things. Not all people are as they seem.
It’s Not a Cult or Sect
‘Thus says Yahweh: With heaven my throne and earth my footstool, what house could you build me, what place for me to rest, when all these things were made by me and all belong to me? - declares Yahweh. But my eyes are drawn to the person of humbled and contrite spirit, who trembles at my word.’ (Isaiah 66:1-2 NJB) Some people think to pray they must be in a church, or even belong to a particular denomination to be a Christian. It can sometimes appear that Christians, who are simply supposed to be brothers and sisters, are the most divided of people! God does not necessarily want grand gestures, nor I think does He need us to build churches and cathedrals in His name, I believe that what He most wants from us is a humble spirit, a heart predisposed towards Him and other people and simply to be obedient.
It’s Not Exclusive
‘I am coming to gather every nation and every language. They will come to witness my glory. I shall give them a sign and send some of their survivors to the nations: to Tarshish, Put, Lud, Meshech, Tubal and Javan, to the distant coasts and islands that have never heard of me or seen my glory. They will proclaim my glory to the nations, and from all the nations they will bring all your brothers as an offering to Yahweh, on horses, in chariots, in litters, on mules and on camels, to my holy mountain, Jerusalem, Yahweh says, like Israelites bringing offerings in clean vessels to Yahweh's house.’ (Isaiah 66:18-20 NJB) Christianity, certainly in Britain, sometimes seems to be a social club for those who’ve got it all together, those with nice lives, good jobs, living in nice areas and sailing through life. Many of us in Britain do not have perfect lives, we struggle, we endure hardships, and we fail to reach any kind of perfection. God does not want an exclusive club for Christianity, He isn’t just about the terminally nice, He created every human being and calls every kind of person to be His and to serve Him with a whole heart. Christianity is not the British class system! Jesus came down to earth to save those who are lost, without faith, suffering, those who are deeply hurting and those who are often seen as unworthy and of no account. ‘The spirit of Lord Yahweh is on me for Yahweh has anointed me. He has sent me to bring the news to the afflicted, to soothe the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to captives, release to those in prison, to proclaim a year of favour from Yahweh and a day of vengeance for our God, to comfort all who mourn (to give to Zion's mourners), to give them for ashes a garland, for mourning-dress, the oil of gladness, for despondency, festal attire; and they will be called 'terebinths of saving justice', planted by Yahweh to glorify him. They will rebuild the ancient ruins, they will raise what has long lain waste, they will restore the ruined cities, all that has lain waste for ages past.’ (Isaiah 61:1-4 NJB)