When the questions from the input box come to me, sometimes it’s hard to discern the particulars of the person’s query. This question was fielded:
Isn’t a relationship with Jesus more important than religion?
… and I wasn’t sure how to approach it. So I guessed:
Christianity has always treated this as a both/and situation instead of an either/or. Jesus himself called disciples into a community, most notably his band of twelve companions. The New Testament witness is consistent in the value and virtue of Christians gathering in groups to encounter the Lord in the experience of baptism, in the preaching of the Word, and in the “breaking of the bread.” These sacraments are the foundation of Christian worship, and imply the high value associated with the public and communal practice of worship.
That said, human beings bring different aspects of their God-given personalities to the practice of faith. For some, the personal relationship with God offers the most spiritual fruit. For others, institutional religion provides a solid foundation of trust. For all Christians, the faith community is strengthened in the rejoicing of its own individual gifts when believers gather to share what they have in common: a love of God and commitment to the Gospel way of life.
Some spiritual directors might urge a Christian to expand and grow in new areas. Do we find God in nature? Maybe an encounter with God before an icon or near the Blessed Sacrament will be a source of surprise and a new spirit. Do we like to pray by rote? Perhaps a challenge would be for us to compose a prayer to God in our own words. Are we aligned with institutional religion? Then perhaps it is opportune to cultivate a personal relationship with the Lord. And for those who value one-on-one time with God, there are riches in the practices of the planet’s two billion Christians that might, in turn, enrich our faith.
How would you have guessed and answered?