It’s not a religion; it’s a relationship.
How many times have you heard this once-witty-now-cliché statement? I swear, people—Christians—toss this one around like it’s a beach ball! I know I’m guilty of it.
I recently had a conversation with a friend about religion. It started out pretty harmless; she was asking about my parents’ arranged marriage and how the hell my parents ended up as a couple. So I gave her the reader’s digest version of my family’s history and my mom’s desire to marry a Christian…how my grandfather very sternly promised her that he’d disown her if she ever made that request again…and how he proceeded to find her a husband who was the farthest thing from a Christian: a Hindu priest in training. (Way to go, Grandpa!)
My friend then asked, “what’s the difference between Hindu and Christian beliefs? Don’t all religions have the same basic foundations of love and treating people how you want to be treated, etc?”
My initial thought was, “Yes.” Because she has a point if you really think about it. But the next thought that popped into my head was this: “It [Christianity] isn’t a religion; it’s a relationship.” And then I wanted to shoot myself, because I’m so flippin’ tired of hearing people say that! What does it even mean? I mean really?
The rest of our conversation consisted mostly of me rambling like an idiot about why I think Christianity is different from all other religions…but you know what? In that process of rambling, I realized how utterly pathetic I am when it comes to witnessing (with my words, I mean). Here I am: a Jesus-loving, Bible-believing, Christian school-attending, church-going person, and I don’t know how to witness. I don’t know how to tell someone my reasons for believing what I believe.
Why am I a Christian?
…because God is alive, and I see Him in the world around me.
…because He created me for the sole purpose of worshiping Him, and through worship, I can reach my full potential.
…because I’ve realized the incredible sacrifice that Jesus Christ has made for me.
…because life without an intimate relationship with Jesus is meaningless.
But seriously…how does one convey those ideas to someone who just doesn’t see Christianity as anything other than a religion? How DO you convince a person that Christianity truly is about a personal relationship with Jesus and not merely a list of ritualistic rules or dos and don’ts?
I have no idea. Honestly. I don’t.
I walked away from that conversation feeling rather miserable and wondering if I had failed God. Yeah, yeah, I know I didn’t fail God, but I couldn’t help feeling as though I had. And sure, I can pray for my friend to truly know Christ—for God to have a supernatural encounter with her that will leave her wanting nothing more in life than Jesus, and I will; I will pray. But here’s the thing: it really bothers me that we Christians have become so caught up in our Christian sub-culture…our Christian t-shirts, CDs, and bumper stickers, and our Christianized/sermonized/“Jesufied” church lingo that when it comes to talking to real people with real questions about faith, we just become tongue-tied. I’ve always had this pet-peeve, but this conversation was a fresh reminder of said annoyance.
Now, I know that God is ultimately the One who can speak to my friend’s heart. It’s ultimately not my witticism or excellent rhetoric (or in this case, lack thereof) that will change her mind about God or faith or Christianity or religion. But I still think we could be trying a lot harder. I’ve been at Bible college for five bloody years, and before that I was heavily involved at my church, my youth group, and my Christian school. But have I ever really learned how to explain my beliefs to someone who may be searching, or even just curious? I can’t say that I have.
It’s not a religion; it’s a relationship. While I believe that statement to be true, I still rather detest what it stands for, or the overall attitude behind it. And as far as I’m concerned, it doesn’t accomplish a whole lot in terms of practical evangelism. At least not in my experience.
So, fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, let me close this rant by asking you perhaps the simplest/most complicated question that exists: how do you tell people about your faith?