There is a popular idea going around…the idea that religion is bad and Jesus is good. This idea spawns other ideas like “religion gets in the way of Jesus” or “Jesus hates religion”. There is a sense in which I agree with these statements, but only if we define “religion” as “man made doctrines that substitute for Jesus.” The bible certainly speaks out against that kind of religion in passages like Colossians 2:20–23 and James 1:26.
However, the bible is pretty clear that in order to call yourself a Christian, you must believe certain things. The fuller context of James 1:26 is:
James 1:19–27 (ESV) (19) Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; (20) for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. (21) Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. (22) But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. (23) For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. (24) For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. (25) But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. (26) If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. (27) Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.
If we are to call ourselves Christian, we must not only be hearers of the word, but doers of the word as well. And the “doing” of the word is pure and undefiled religion.
So, Christianity is both a relationship and a religion. A relationship in that you must know Jesus, and a religion in that once you know Jesus, there are things He expects of you. Continue reading