I was in Michigan visiting my daughter and
granddaughters. Marissa is five and Audrey is three.
I took all of them out to Bob Evans for breakfast
where my granddaughters usually want to sit near
Grandma Bon-Bon, but not this day!
They started fighting over the seats next to me and
before I knew it, I sat on one side of the table
with a granddaughter on either side of me and
Bon-Bon sat opposite all three of us. I looked at my
wife and said, “That’s right, Papa is in the house.”
However, I had no idea how much work it would be to
help those girls through breakfast. Everything
within reach became a play toy—straws, sugar
packets, silverware, salt shakers. Audrey had
somehow managed to get her hands on every fork
within her reach and licked them all. When my food
arrived, I was hoping for something clean and
untouched, but my granddaughter quickly jumped down
and picked a fork up off the floor and gave it to me
as if she was handing me the greatest of all prizes.
Then, expecting my gratitude, when I refused to use
the fork of her
dreams, she took it personally and with tears she
begged me to use the fork she had so graciously
provided. Yuck! But you know what? I did it.
I used to think the joy of being a grandparent was
that I get to come and play with
my grandkids, hold them and laugh with them and
shake them up like a can of soda, and then I get to
give them back to their parents and leave. I thought
it was about the joy of relationship without having
the responsibility of raising them. I was wrong. It
takes a village to raise a child. (It takes an army
to raise my grandkids.)
Let’s be clear, responsibility rarely fades away.
Someone has to teach them how to eat and care for
themselves. They need to learn to brush their teeth
and how to play nice with others and how to share
and how to read and how to swim and how to ride bike
and they need to be taught to recognize danger. And
as much as I love my family and enjoy just hanging
out with them no strings attached, whether I want it
or not, I’m still part of their training.
Maybe somewhere along the way you’ve heard someone
say, “It’s not about religion, but about
relationship.” Truth is, it’s about both. I
understand why that’s said; we want to make Jesus as
attractive as we can and there have been plenty of
religious groups through the years who have made
church unattractive. But does
that make a false statement true?
For starters, “religion” can’t always necessarily be
a bad thing, because Scripture
speaks of “true religion” as opposed to vain
religion (James 1:26–27).
Jesus said ‘His yoke was light and easy,’ but it is
a yoke nonetheless (Matthew 11:28–30).
Jesus also spoke of leaving an old covenant and
entering a new one, but again, it is still a
Paul spoke often of being a servant (or slave) of
Jesus; maybe a freely committed servant, yes, but a
servant nonetheless (Romans 1:1). Paul would also
remind us, “You are not your own, you were bought
with a price. Therefore, glorify God with your body”
(I Corinthians 6:19-20).
Not to mention, the word “relationship” doesn’t
appear in Scripture one time. It’s true,
many churches are dying because no one is attending.
Somewhere, they have bought into the relationship
vs. religion sales bit. But the writer of Hebrews
encouraged, “Do not give up meeting together as some
are in the habit of doing
Just like being with grandkids: I get the joy of the
relationship, but that doesn’t remove me from
responsibility. I’m thinking it’s both . . .
religion and relationship. What do you think?
[Ron Otto, preaching minister at Lincoln
Christian Church in Lincoln, IL]