‘It’s not about the religion, it’s about the relationship’ are words from a Stevie Wonder song, A Time To Love. For me also, as a committed Christian, there’s a massive difference between the two.
The former is an outward show, while the latter is concerned with what’s going on in the heart. True faith isn’t so much to do with externals alone but first and foremost what’s happening deep down within us. Get the inside right and the outside will take care of itself.
Relationship is exactly that – and it’s a two-way thing. You know God and he knows you.
As a random example, take football memorabilia. You can go on the Internet and buy a signed shirt from any top footballer in the world. Assuming it’s genuine of course, the person who signed doesn’t know who you are, he never will.
The signed top in the photographs was worn by Mike Wilde during the very first Champions League game I went to. The match in the Faroe Islands, saw him score, followed a hat-trick in the return at The New Saints.
He’s now moved on to another club and when I was at a game recently where he was involved, I decided to take advantage and get the item signed. As soon as he saw me with my pen and shirt, he knew what I was after.
“Can you sign it personally to me”, I asked, and he did. He didn’t need to ask who I was or my name, he just did it.
That’s relationship, you know them but they also know you. It’s just the same spiritually, you are known and you know.
‘By faith in Christ you are in direct relationship with God.’ Galatians 3:25.