The Difference Between Religion and Relationship

19 Jan

Last weekend, the social media sites lit on fire over one young man’s Youtube rap. Have you seen it yet?

My Facebook news feed had at least eight friends who posted and praised it. The video has over 15 million views since posting last week. But as it turns out, not everyone is so happy about the poem. Talking about religion tends to do that. Now you can find a bunch of video responses from people who disagree. I read one blog post that criticized the guy for saying Jesus fought religion when, really, Jesus was a good Jew who honored religious traditions.

Perhaps the controversial poet didn’t do enough to answer people’s questions, but it’s asking a lot to explain Jesus in four minutes. Yes, Jesus did follow the Jewish customs. What is important to note, though, is that when this controversial poet says, “I hate religion,” he refers to static religion that traps people in rules. He doesn’t say anything against religious practices like attending church or praying.

The main point this video tries to get across is the same thing the Bible shows us. God doesn’t care about religion so much as he wants a relationship with His creation. This theme appears again and again throughout the Old Testament, Jesus’ ministry, and the early church. Religion is just humanity’s way to connect to God, to reach up to Heaven. It’s a tool we use. But God has already reached down to us. He’s holding out his hand, not to shake on a business deal, but like a parent cups his child’s hand or a man intertwines his fingers with his bride’s. If we ignore his hand for relationship and rely on religion alone, we’re just banging our fists on the ceiling without seeing the stairs to the roof.

You can look forward to another post on this topic tomorrow. My sister gave me Searching for God Knows What by Donald Miller (the same guy who wrote Blue Like Jazz) so we could read it together and discuss the issues that come up. Unfortunately, I’ve put off reading it because of school, friends, and other commonly used but still pathetic excuses. Now I’m well into the second chapter and… well, I’ll save that for later.


Posted by on January 19, 2012 in Other thoughts


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11 responses to “The Difference Between Religion and Relationship

  1. brad

    January 19, 2012 at 5:46 pm

    nice work here. The poet perhaps has a narrow view of “religion” and many who spoke up in critique were right in many ways. I am so grateful that he began the conversation though, and grateful for you for continuing it.

  2. Michael Bouterse

    January 19, 2012 at 7:15 pm

    Hi, Emily! Great post on an interesting video (incidentally, filmed thirty minutes from my house!). I’ll eschew my own thoughts for the moment, but I did think you might be interested in an article I found that is a response by Jefferson Bethke, the video’s creator, to the criticism his video has received. The second link is to the article by Pastor Kevin DeYoung that Bethke cites in his reply, posted by the Gospel Coalition (great website!).

    God bless,


    • Emily R

      January 20, 2012 at 10:24 am

      Thanks for these links! I didn’t hear about this side to the story. Pastor DeYoung did a good job of analyzing every verse and idea in the poem, and I’m glad he and Jefferson could discuss the critique and how to further the Gospel.

  3. James

    January 20, 2012 at 12:48 am

    ‘He’s holding out his hand, not to shake on a business deal, but like a parent cups his child’s hand or a man intertwines his fingers with his bride’s’ – like this. Thanks for posting. And thanks for linking to the Breathe post.

    • Emily R

      January 22, 2012 at 2:28 pm

      Thank you for your post first. Like brad commented above, I’m just continuing what I think is a worthwhile conversation.

  4. janellesims

    January 20, 2012 at 11:11 am

    This video has shown up everywhere on my Facebook newsfeed as well. Thanks for writing a post about it! Obviously, if it’s being watched that many times and re-posted that many times, people are interested. Thanks for giving readers food for thought, Emily.

    • Emily R

      January 22, 2012 at 2:32 pm

      It’s definitely a current topic! I’m surprised it didn’t make it on Molly’s blog ( Since posting, I’ve learned the discussion is even more widespread than I originally thought.

  5. Quench the Thirst

    January 22, 2012 at 4:19 pm

    Great blog post Emily! Thanks for sharing and talking about this video and what it means. Interesting stuff… it definitely makes you think.

  6. Jo Schatz

    January 23, 2012 at 10:30 am

    This is very intriguing. I saw this video on my Facebook as well and found a variety of different opinions and comments on it. While in no way do I want to impose my religion and set of beliefs onto others who’s views are different than my own, I still am open to converse about the differences. It’s eye-opening to see/hear what they believe in, to be able to learn from them, and to not negatively judge those differences. While people have different religions and different gods that they praise, I think it’s important to know that while we have those differences, we share a common identity: We believe in a higher power or spirit, we find strength from that belief; And in no way should we discriminate in what we and others feel is the Truth. Thank you for this!

    • brad

      January 23, 2012 at 10:41 am

      the only problem with that is that is Universalism. Every way leads to God, or enlightenment, or something? Worship isn’t about being empowered by some vague “deity.” Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father, but by me.” John 14:6.

      Jesus claims exclusivity. Christians claim exclusivity, but not because we want to be exclusive, but we know the only way for people to be saved.

      I enjoy this video, to a point. Religiosity is bad, legalism send people to hell. But the religion, the devotion to, treasuring of, and living for Jesus Christ is precious. Jesus said, “If you love me, you will obey my commandments” John 14:15.

      Obedience is still important. IN Christianity, we do not “do” in order to “be.” That is religiosity which leads to death. In Christianity, we are made to “be” so that we may joyfully “do.”


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