Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Religion Without Relationship

Posted by Michael

Jesus indicted the religious leaders of his day for failing to practice what they were preaching to the people (Matthew 23). What they were teaching was true enough, Jesus even told the people to listen and obey what the leaders taught. Some of the teachings were heavy, and some of the truth that the leaders spoke exposed the hearts of the people. Facing the truth and growing is a burdensome process at times. The truth then as now can hurt. The weight of the truth wasn’t the problem, however. The problem was that after these teachers brought their heavy truths, they refused to join the people to help them work it out. We are not called to fling the heavy yet healing words of Jesus around impersonally. If we confront anyone with truth, we are called to join them in their battle to embrace that truth. Powerful words must always be accompanied with personal presence. Another way to say this is that religion without relationship is toxic. Christianity is a relational journey with God and other Christians that allows us to embrace truth bits at a time.  Later in the same talk, Jesus stated that the religious leaders were shutting the kingdom of heaven in the people’s faces. The Christian life (life in the kingdom) is relational at its core. If it’s not done with people, it’s not done at all.  We should never carelessly speak to people (even the truth) unless we are willing to invest the time and energy to accompany them on part of their journey. The world finds religion without relationship unbearable and unbelievable, and it’s honestly hard to blame them. 


  1. Came across this yesterday: Think is ties in well from the blog Practical Theology for Women. Speaking the Truth and Love are Not the Same -Wendy

    Ephesians 4:15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,

    Frankly, speaking the truth is NOT the same as Biblical love, and believers need to be precise with how we throw around these words. Truth telling is needed. It is absolutely necessary. And sometimes that truth is hard and offensive. But simply telling that hard truth is NOT equal to loving someone in fulfillment of the Great Command. And loving someone is as necessary, if not more necessary, than truth telling—for every bit of the law and prophets depends on Biblical love as its foundational requirement.

    Matthew 22 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

  2. If I weren't at my desk I think I'd shout one hearty amen to both this post and Dee Dee's comment. One of the most formative things I ever learned was the importance of realtionship. People are not projects to be preached at; they're living wonderful individuals made in the image and likeness of God and for whom He's got plans. Paul says in 1 Corinthians that no matter what you say, if it's said without love it's nothing but noise.

    One of the things I have been teaching my staff is the adage "Always seek first to understand." Put yourself in their shoes, meet them where they are, try to understand their perspective, and absolutely be willing to get in the trenches with them (clearly, this is applicable both in auditing and life). I would never have found freedom and victory in my life were it not for the people who got dirty with me, and walked beside me, while Jesus worked on me. I'm thankful that the same people still do as God continues working in me.

    Goodness, now I'm fired up (which may or may not be unfortunate for my colleagues today). :) Thanks for posting this!

  3. Many thanks for the great comments! Really great insights!