By Dr. Eusebio A. Tanicala

What matters is relation, not religion” is an oft-repeated saying among many religious groups and fellowships.  Is this claim correct?

The claim is wrong. It lacks specificity.  It lacks definition.  Not all relation is acceptable to God.  Relation with Satan does not allow one to get into life eternal.  Male and male sexual partnership, female and female sexual relation is damnable, says the Holy Scripture.  Some religious groups think their relationship with God based on the dreams of some religious leaders brings them into the glorious presence of God, but the end thereof is destruction. The Scribes and Pharisees and Sadducees thought their relationship with God was correct, but they were castigated by Christ Jesus in Matthew 23 because they considered their traditions as the accurate interpretation of God’s Law.  All these give us the idea that not all relationships are correct.

James 1:27 says, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”  Added to this passage is Apostle Paul’s admonition in Titus 2:11-14, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.”

The right relationship with God in this present age is based on the merits of Christ Jesus, who paid the penalty of sin through His death at the cross.  Our Lord Jesus Christ demands the renunciation of ungodliness and worldly passions with zeal for good works.  Visiting the orphans and the widows is one aspect of good works that James wanted to be exercised by those who professed faith in Christ.  Many disciples during the time of James were shouting the profession of faith, but they lacked good works, so their relation with God and their religion was wrong.  They lacked the spirit of Christ’s parable of the Good Samaritan.

Matthew 25:31-46 tells us of the instructions of our Lord Jesus Christ to assist those who are hungry and thirsty both for biological and spiritual sustenance. Care for the sick, help for the strangers and visiting those in prison glorify the Father in Heaven. These are aspects of pure religion and establish a good relationship with Christ. “And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’” (v.40). That is an acceptable relationship with the King of kings, with Christ. I understood an acceptable relationship with Christ from the following passages: Mark 3:35, “For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.” In Matt. 7:21, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”  So we need to know the WILL OF THE FATHER.

Conclusion:  The proposition in Christianity is not either Religion or Relation.  Rather, it is both Correct Religion and Correct Relation.  One’s religion based on the will of God that is found in the Bible is one’s relation with God. When one’s religion is wrong, his relation with God is also wrong. When one’s relation with God is wrong, his religion is wrong.