Summary: Christianity differs from all religions in that it’s not about us finding God, but about us responding to God who has been reaching out to us.
Can you be a Christian without being religious?
It almost sounds like a contradiction in terms.
However, according to Webster, a religion is a system of faith and worship... Christianity is certainly that!
According to Webster, a religion is the service to and the adoration of God expressed in forms of worship... Again, Christianity is certainly that as well.
According to Webster, religion is devotion, fidelity, conscientiousness, an awareness or conviction of the existence of a supreme being which arouses reverence, love, gratitude, and the will to obey and serve... Christianity is certainly all that ... and more.
According to Webster’s definition, all religion has one basic characteristic in common; all its participants are reaching out to God, trying to find God and trying to please God.
This is the basic and standard definition of religion and it can be applied to all world religions from the largest group with millions of followers, to the smallest sect with a few dozen devotees.
Christianity however, though sharing many similarities with the definition of religion and containing some parallels to other world religions, nonetheless differs significantly in one major area.
Christianity makes the bold claim that mankind has not found God, but that God has found mankind.
Christianity differs from all others in that it’s not about us finding God, but about us responding to God who has been reaching out to us.
Christianity is not religious striving. It’s not a cycle of forms, formalism or formulas. It’s not a series of does and don’t, rules, rituals, or regulations. It’s not trying to ease, please, or appease the Almighty. Christianity, simply put, is about a relationship, a personal, individual, and privileged relationship with God that is induced, initiated and instigated by Him.
And this is what makes Christianity inherently different from all other world religions. God reaches out to us!
The most famous Biblical passage of all time, John 3:16, supports this assertion, 16"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
Consider Philippians chapter 2
5Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: 6Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.8And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross!
Eph. 1:4 for he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ,
The very Christmas story supports this when it says in Luke 2:11 today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.
We call this the “Incarnation”. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14
But not only did God come in human form, Jesus Christ, to redeem us, He came in love to reach out to us.
He reached out to common men like Peter, Andrew, James and John. He reached out to a Leper who was considered an outcast. He reached out to a paralyzed man whose friends didn’t take “no” for an answer, and He reached out to Levi and Levi’s friends who were looking for something more in their life.
Jesus also reached out to the religious leaders who were impressed with His teachings, His healings, His hope, and they were more than happy to bring some of His ideas into their religious tradition. They were hoping for some kind of compromise that would retain the best of their Pharisaical Jewish religion and the best of what Jesus had to offer.
So He told them this story, this parable:
36 "No one tears a patch from a new garment and sews it on an old one. If he does, he will have torn the new garment, and the patch from the new will not match the old.
37And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. 38No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins. 39And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for he says, ’The old is better.’ "
Now this seems like a rather peculiar story. Why not compromise? Why not take the best of the old and apply it to the new. Well, the answer is rather simple. The old cannot contain the new, just as a brittle, old wineskin could not contain the expansion of fermenting wine.