Finishing up my thoughts from the other day on “Religion.” If you haven’t already, check that out so this will make sense.
Having disected the word “religion” pretty thoroughly, we have a choice. We can try to salvage the word to mean what is once did, or we can accept the popular definition and say “Christianity is not a religion.” I don’t like either of those, so I choose the third option: drop the word. The Bible doesn’t mention it except in a few places. So, stop talking about religion, because it’s lost all meaning except for a vague, bad sense in the pit of your stomach. In our generation, I believe this word is beyond repair, so I suggest using it as little as possible.
The one exception I will make for this is if I put an adjective in front of it. So, I can say, “This is a hallmark of dead religion.” Or “People like this are living in legalistic religion.” If I put it in those terms, what I’m saying becomes more clear: I’m talking about outward-focused, legalistic behavior. I would even go so far as to say, “That’s dead religion. Living religion is something wholly different, something most people wouldn’t even consider using the word ‘religion’ to describe.”
Come up with a better way of saying what you’re trying to say. If you’re talking about legalism, put it in those terms. If you’re talking about an empty following of commands absent from a living, vital relationship with God, then at least toss on the adjective “dead.” Both believers and nonbelievers are pretty tired of hearing how “Christianity is not a religion, it’s a relationship with Jesus.” That phrase has surpassed its “best used by” date and has ceased to communicate truth. Pray to the Spirit of God to give you language to communicate the gospel to this generation.
How about this: “Commandments and rules form the periphery, the very outermost part of Christianity. It’s like how you can’t cheat on your girlfriend if you want to have a healthy relationship with her. The solid, stable core of Christianity is a living, breathing, love affair with Jesus.”
Now, can someone popularize that phrase and pay me royalties on it?