‘Christianity is about relationship, not religion.’ How many times have you heard it? Probably twenty-seven too many. It is a tired cliché after all. And it overlooks the fact that there is such a thing as “pure and undefiled religion” (James 1.27) … and that Christians are supposed to engage in it!
Nevertheless, clichés usually become cliché because they have hit on something that is mostly true. And such is the case with the religion/relationship slogan. While we might not agree fully that Christianity is not religion, it should be well-noted that it most assuredly is relationship. “This is eternal life,” Jesus said in John 17.3, “that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (emphasis added).
There is Christ’s own definition of eternal life – not streets of gold, first of all; not a reunion with grandma, primarily; not the absence of pain, or tears, or even sin (delightful as all those missing pieces will be!). All these things may be said to be aspects of eternal life … but the substance of eternal life is knowing: knowing God, and knowing His Son! The substance of eternal life is a relationship with the Almighty! That is what will make heaven so heavenly – that we will see, and know, and love the Lord our God forever!
And then let me say also that this eternal life is not merely future. Eternal life is not merely something that we will obtain when we die, or when Christ returns. No! God has already “made us alive together with Christ.” And I submit to you that this God-given new life is of an eternal quality! If you are in Christ, you have begun a new life – with new desires, and new hopes, and new spiritual abilities, and a new family, and a new King – that will last forever! If you have believed on Christ, then you have already begun to taste the famous promise that comes at the end of John 3.16! And if you have already begun your “eternal life” … then the substance of your life today is that you actually know God, and that you know His Son!
Christianity is not just the forgiveness of sins, and the assurance that you don’t have to go to hell. It is those things! But the greatest thing about your sins being forgiven is that they no longer present a barrier between you and your Maker! Now you can come to Him, and speak with Him, and know Him! And similarly, the greatest thing about being rescued from hell is not simply the avoidance of the flames, but the opportunity to live forever with the Lord! This is Christianity; and “this is eternal life” – that we have the great privilege of knowing the heavenly Father and His beloved Son!
Do you know Him? Are you really a Christian? And if so, don’t you want to know Him more? “That they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” This is the most distinguished privilege anyone can have! And “this is eternal life.”