August 14, 2013
Occasionally I get asked a question that goes something like this, “So, what ‘religion’ are you?” Depending on who is asking the question determines the parameters of the inquiry. For instance if a Roman Catholic is asking the question they generally mean what “Protestant Denomination” are you. I don’t think Catholics don’t use the term “Denomination” but I’m not sure. If a non Christian is asking the question they may be asking any number of things but it generally is not a question of denomination. It likely has something to do with whether you are a Christian, Hindu, Muslim…. Sometimes people are trying to figure out what kind of “religious person” I am, i.e. are you a religious zealot, a quasi religious person, religious by name and profession only etc.
Look up the term “religion’ in a dictionary you will find something like: “a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.” What?! Uhh… yeah… hold that thought.
If I were to ask you to tell me about your family what would you say? You would likely tell me who is in your family and you may tell me something about their personalities and your relation to them. You might then tell me about some of the underlying values that frame your family i.e. we are a very strict family; we are a very close family; we are not a close family… The point being you would likely tell me about relationships first since that is what families are… relationships… good or bad. Certainly relationships undergirded by, sometimes, common values.
Well, Christianity is certainly a “religion” with beliefs, values, morals, and standards. But it is primarily a “relationship.” It’s a relationship between Gods creation and God. It’s a relationship between Gods children and their Heavenly Father. It’s a relationship between the Redeemed and the Redeemer; Jesus Christ. It’s a relationship between “believers” and the “Holy Helper.” No doubt we have beliefs that describe and determine our faith, but those beliefs come as a result of “relationship.” Frankly I wonder about “Christians” who think of their faith as a set of rules, and beliefs that seem devoid of any “knowing” or “intimate connection” with the Father. As a matter of fact, I’m not even sure that is Christianity! So when someone asks what Christianity is, the first answer might be “it’s a relationship.”
I can hear it now: “if it’s ‘just’ a relationship then people can make whatever sort of conclusions they want regarding ‘beliefs’?!” Not really. Think about it for a moment… I’m guessing you know how to behave in circumstances where you know the people you are with. There are certain things I knew I could talk about and ways to behave when I was around adults when I was young. Right? Our behavior comes from and is determined by “relationship”. I acted differently around my parents than I did around my friends. Again, behavior comes from “relationship.” Going back to a previous rumination, I don’t mean that we live our lives as hypocrites. I just mean that different circumstances call for different behavior (not different core values). Paul called it “being all things to all people.”
Just an aside… one of the things that has radically changed in our society is the way young people behave around older adults. Because there is so little respect for adults kids don’t concern themselves much with how they might be perceived by seniors. That’s why we hear foul language and see obnoxious behavior in public that was unacceptable and intolerable a generation ago. I have heard many older folks complain about this sort of thing over the years. I sometimes ask why they don’t say something to young people… Their answer? “Because I’m afraid to.” I don’t blame them.
So, if we want to get our “beliefs and our “behavior” right within the context of Christian Faith then let’s remember who we are “relating” to. When we remember that we are the children of the Great God and that He loves us and wants to be in relationship with us. And when we remember that the Holy Spirit dwells within us. And that we are empowered to be who God calls us to be… then belief and behavior follow.
There are 86,400 seconds in a day, 604,800 seconds in a week, depending on the month about 18,144,000 seconds… so, who do you relate to in that span of time? It has a great deal to say about what you believe.