Is it really all about a relationship?

Rethinking common wisdom about what Christianity is all about.

You have heard it said so often, you never thought to question it. It sounded so good, you didn’t think to doubt it. I am starting to question it.

“Christianity is about a relationship. It is not a religion; it is relationship.” Sounds good, and it is certainly partially true.

You will find no bigger fan of Andy Stanley than me. But, I want to push back a little on something you have said, Andy. “The purpose of Northpoint Community church is all about leading people into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ.” Is that it? Just a relationship with Jesus? Nothing about running the race, pressing toward the mark, completing the task?

I had a discipler of mine that used to say, “His way of doing things is better than your way of not doing things.” Who am I to criticize Andy Stanley? Good point. But, still. . .

Relationship is really important. The old hymn writer put it well:
He walks with me
And talks with me
And tells me I am His own
And the joy we share, as we tarry there
None other has ever known
The relationship is wonderful. Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice.” It is good. It is important. It is true. It is wonderful. Here is what I am starting to question: is Christianity all about a relationship?

I don’t think so.

Paul said:
• Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philip. 3:13-14 (NIV)
• Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 1 Tim. 6:12 (NIV)
• Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. 1 Cor. 9:24-27 (NIV)
• I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day--and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. 2 Tim. 4:7-8 (NIV)

These verses don’t talk about relationship. They talk about calling. They don’t talk about walking and talking and sipping tea and eating crumpets with Jesus. They are about taking a hill for God.

We all want two things: something to do, and someone to do it with. Christianity, rightly understood, gives us both. Christianity is not all about a relationship. It is about a relationship, but that is not all it is about. It is also about a calling. It is about doing. Martha was not altogether wrong.

Bill Hybels got me on to this idea. He speaks often of following God as an exhilarating, breath-taking adventure. Exhilarating breath-taking adventure? Really? Look around church next Sunday. Does it look like most people are experiencing an exhilarating, breath-taking adventure? It was a new concept for me. Seems to be a new concept to a few other church-goers as well. But, I am starting to get it. I am starting to run the race. I am starting to reach for the prize. I am starting to fulfill the calling, not just enjoy the relationship.

It is not like relationship and task are opposed to each other. In fact, they enhance each other. Some of our best relationships are forged as we are on mission together. Not just facing each other talking, but facing a common mountain and taking that mountain together.

Speaking of mountains, do you remember Caleb? There is one who got it. Remember the classic King James rendering of Joshua 14.12: “Give me this mountain.” Following God wasn't about just sipping tea and munching crumpets with God. He had a mountain to take and take it he would.

It is true of everyone who ever followed God. God gave him not only a relationship, but a mountain to climb, a garden to tame, a lion to quiet, a wall to build, a church to establish, a flood to escape, a family and nation to birth, a message to proclaim, a race to run, a calling to live out.

Next time someone tells you Christian living is all about a relationship, straighten them out on this point, will you? It is not just about a relationship. It is also about a calling.