Does it damage the faith to say Christianity is about a personal relationship with Jesus? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
I was recently asked on a Facebook where I commented and said I don’t use personal relationship terminology when talking about Christianity why I don’t. It’s a reasonable question. After all, isn’t Christianity about having a personal relationship with Jesus? Is God impersonal? Isn’t He a Father and we children?
The problem is that when people use this kind of terminology, it actually tends to become a Christianity about them. This gets us to the first problem that originally Christianity wasn’t just me doing Christianity on my own. It was a community. It was the community coming together and supporting one another. We make it highly individualistic.
From there, we add in a number of other notions. God has a specific plan for our lives and we have to find out what that plan is. God wants us to have a specific job, go to a specific school, and marry a specific person. We need to key in so we can find out what God’s plan for our life is.
When someone tells me they want to know what God’s will for their life is, I always tell them I can save them the search. I know what it is. It’s simple. God’s will is to conform you to the likeness of Christ. About the only pushback I think some Christians could give is some Calvinists would say not all have that destiny, but for all Christians, yeah. That’s the goal.
Christianity gradually becomes about what God is doing for you and really helping you reach your personal goals. This even extends all the way to the end of evangelism in many of our attempts. What is the question that we are to ask people. Where are you going to do when you die? Yep. The whole goal of Christianity is to get to Heaven, and as I have said elsewhere, God is there by the way if you’re into that kind of thing.
Overall, something we miss is that Jesus is our king. It’s my understanding that some people are misusing the term Christ is king for something else right now in political conflicts in the Middle East, but there is one way all Christians should agree. Christ is indeed king over everyone. He’s king over all races, languages, nations, and tribes. Everyone you meet is destined to bow down and say that one day. You will either say it now to your benefit or later to your detriment.
Let’s not forget also how when we speak about this personal relationship, that God speaks to us often through our feelings. This is an extremely dangerous precedent and for those of us who claim to be Sola Scriptura, it seems strange that the Bible takes a back seat at this point. Where do we see this in Scripture? Answer. We don’t. We see Scripture talking about wisdom and developing the mind of Christ.
This does not mean that there can be no moments of joy in the Christian life. There can be. Some people can hear a worship song and get caught up in the glory of God, and that’s excellent. If I read a good theology book and get a new insight, I get caught up in the glory of God that way. I’m part of an online Aquinas group led by Catholic friends of mine and I sometimes in discussing Aquinas do really ponder more the nature of God and thoroughly enjoy it.
Yet make no mistake. The way we are with God is to be totally different from the way we are with anyone else. There is no comparison. Jesus is not just your friend and the one who forgives you. He is your king. He is your master. You are supposed to do anything for Him, including lay down your own life.
I find the personal relationship idea ultimately just lowers Jesus and makes it be all about Jesus and me. It’s about what Jesus is doing in us. Jesus is greater.
(And I affirm the virgin birth)