Religion or Relationship?

Q. How do I respond to my friend’s statement that the Christian faith “is not a religion, it’s a relationship”?


A. Tell them gently that Scripture says otherwise. The Bible speaks explicitly about our Christian faith as religion: “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world” (James 1:27).


The English word “religion” comes from the Latin term religio. At its root, this term means an “obligation” or “bond.” Our religion, then, is our bond to the Lord; we are bound to Him in faith, hope, and love, which implies certain obligations. We can’t choose between religion and relationship, as your friend’s statement assumes. Our relationship is expressed through our religion, our bond with the Lord.

This meaning of the word “religion” also helps us understand those who claim to be “spiritual but not religious.” Those who make such a statement typically want the consolations of religion without its obligations and commitments.