“Now this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent.” (Jesus – John 17:3)
Whenever we talk about other religions, invariably someone will object: “Wait a minute! Christianity is also a religion. It’s not really any different than any other religion – just a different emphasis. It’s not really better or worse… just different.”
The problem is that (sometimes) they are right! In certain circumstances, Christianity is no different than any of the other world religions (or belief-systems). Christianity can be just as misguided. Just as powerless. Just as enslaving. Just as much a religion of hate as we are accused of being.
In short, Christianity CAN BE a religion. Driven by rules. Or traditions. Or issues of morality. Or focused on behavior. Or being judge and jury over the sin in the world. And when Christianity acts like all the other religions of the world – it is really no different than any other religion of the world!
Religion is always consumed with what must be done or what one must do to achieve some goal or to maintain some status or to become something you are not. It is all about relentless effort and dedication and procedures… and mostly about avoiding things that are perceived as “bad.” Religion promises much (to the really faithful) and delivers little (because enough is hardly ever done… or it was done the wrong way). Religion promises to take away the chains of the world but makes them the chains of god – chains that steal away freedom… no matter the label.
But did you notice the simplicity in Jesus’ words (in our verse today). Not one word about keeping rules, or doing a bunch of good things, or avoiding a bunch of bad things. Just one thing… knowing God.
Life is not found in boatloads of human effort. Life is found in the simplicity of relationship with God.
That’s the whole point. Jesus came to DO all the work that needed to be done… ALL of it, forever… for every person. His efforts removed every need for our efforts. His work put an end to our need to work (which we were never really good at anyway!) What Jesus did, put an end to what needed to be done.
All He asks, in return, is that we lay down our pride, stop seeking our own “road,” and simply receive what He has done.
Upon receiving what Jesus did for us, an amazing thing happens… we are immediately brought into a real relationship with the Most High God. We don’t deserve to be there. We may not feel all that comfortable there. But because of Jesus’ work, every barrier to us belonging there has been eliminated… permanently.
All that is left… is relationship – with God, for all eternity (i.e. eternal life!).
All that remains… is true freedom. “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.” (Eph. 5:1) Not so we can be enslaved again to the yoke of religious responsibility – but so we could be free to live in a real and loving relationship with God… forever.
It is this kind of relationship in which Christians were enabled to live – guided by the Presence of God, hearing the voice of God, and loving with the love of God… through personal first-hand knowledge OF God.
Certainly, Christianity can be a religion. But that was not what Jesus made it to be.