According to Dictionary.com the definition of religion is
“a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, esp. 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.”
And as @prodigaljohn said in his blog post the other day Christians like distancing ourselves from the word religion.
I wonder if that’s fair. Yeah, I get everybody’s meaning. Christ came during a time where a lot of “religious” people were messing things up, but even he said, “For I have not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it.” He didn’t say “I came so y’all didn’t have to follow any rules any more. I came so y’all didn’t have to go to church. I came so y’all didn’t have to do this religion thing anymore.” No. He came to give us a better example of how to do this religion thing. The writer of Hebrews says not to give up meeting together like some have done.
So is Jesus telling us not to have religion and have a relationship or telling us not to have a relationship and have a religion? No. He is telling us that the relationship we have with Him and with others is the only Religion that works.
I’m saying that it’s okay to call yourself Christian. And to call yourself religious. God wants you to practice the religious rites like worship, prayer, tithing and meeting with other Christians. He did not come so that you would disobey His commands. He came to make it easier for you to obey His commands.
I think those people who say, “It’s a relationship, not a religion” have it just as wrong as the Pharisees did, but on the opposite spectrum. There HAS to be a balance. God wants you to be religious. He also wants you to be relational.