Sometimes, religion stinks. By ‘religion,’ I mean the rules humans create to bring people to or keep them from God. In most cases, it is more the latter than the former, though they seldom recognize this. Religions would have you believe that their rules are the only right rules, and if you are not following their rules, you stink.

Well, you do not. Let me clue you into something that may surprise you: God is not religious. In fact, He has a disdain for religion (those of human origin). Read throughout Scripture how He feels about people who follow religious dictates without a genuine relationship with Him. It is not what we would call “nice.”

I will tell you what God is: God IS. God is who He says He is–and that is who He is. There is no play on words intended here because these are not my words.

Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?” God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.'” (Exo 3:13-14 NIV)

He is not who any person says He is. He is who HE says He is. We are tasked with developing a genuine relationship with God, who is who He says He is. This means that we must be genuine in and of ourselves in order to connect with God, who is who He says He is.

For in Christ, neither our most conscientious religion nor disregard of religion amounts to anything. What matters is something far more interior: faith expressed in love. You were running superbly! Who cut in on you, deflecting you from the true course of obedience? (Gal 5:6-7 MSG)

Paul described it this way in today’s Scripture passage: “Faith expressed in love.” There is not much room for religious requirements here. Think of it like a glass of water:

Faith, represented by water, must have something to contain it, in this case, a glass. Water in a glass is like faith contained within love in a relationship. Love is the container. Love, not religion. Love, not rules that humans created to limit or control.

Let’s think of it another way:

If you are in love with someone, they (I hope!) did not hand you a book of rules to limit how you must interact with them. Love begins first, and the relationship then proceeds within the “container” of love. You learn how to interact and respect each other, what is important to each other, etc. You learn how to have faith in that person, believe in them, and trust them–but it all begins with love. Love is what contains the relationship if you will.

It is no different with us and God. Without love, there is no relationship. Without love, you have only a transaction. That’s all. In religion, you do something to get something. For instance, you may act a certain way to avoid rejection or be accepted. That is a transaction: You did something to get something.

In love, you give without a thought of return. 1 Corinthians 13 describes how love works. Read it. The Believers in Galatia were slipping back into a law-based transactional interaction. They forgot they were already accepted by God, and we’re attempting to earn it again. Paul’s goal was to pull them back from the brink and restore them to the relationship of love with God in which they began.

Is this any different from us today? Not one bit. We still have the same two choices: Relationship or transaction, love or religion; “Give me” or “What can I give?”

Please do not misunderstand me: I understand the reason for organizations, guidelines, rules (to a degree), and limits to exist. We humans must have some kind of boundaries to make sense of our world. They have their place, especially with less mature Believers.

Just be sure you do not exchange genuine love with God for a transactional interaction based on rules where you are the one in control, and God is there to serve you or where you think you can earn your right standing with Him by what you do.

(c) 2023 Randall Vaughn • All Rights Reserved •