Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Relating to Jesus

In Evangelical Christianity today, there is a rising emphasis placed upon the believer's relationship with Jesus. It is thought that at the centre of what it means to be a Christian is to have a "personal relationship with Jesus". Yet I have been wondering for some time now, why is this conviction not reflected in the New Testament? Or perhaps in my search I have just missed it?

Granting the perspective the benefit of the doubt, could it simply be that the New Testament documents (bio about Jesus and letters to churches, as well as a few to individuals), due to the "accidents of history", were not concerned with it? Should the absence of the notion caution our giving it such significance and centrality?

Now Im no stiff, and I have a growing connection with God through prayer, which I am comfortable terming a 'relationship' as both give and take. But in the desire to stay true to the New Testament, I am un-easy about granting it the centrality in both proclamation and theology that others are so happy to do. Perhaps in our following Jesus, this is something that we emulate of him. Your comments are greatly desired on this issue.


Chris Tilling said...

I think Paul is heavily concerned about the believers relationship with Christ - cf. Phil and 'the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord', and Paul's desire for Christ himself in 1 Thess 4:18-19, 5:10. The strategy of Paul in 1 Cor all over the place, etc.

Actually, my doctoral work is on a related issue.

eddie said...

But is this 'relationship' interpersonal or a status?

1 Thess 4.18-19 speaks of the future, and so is 5.10 I think. This does nevetheless point to the importance of being with Christ in the future.

Philippians 3.8 could point to reflect the idea of a relationship with Jesus, but is it a personal or impersonal knowing (e.g. having a relationship with a friend or knowing about a movie star). Again, his talk of 'gaining Christ' ("in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him' v.8) may point to a future 'knowing' which is synonimous with being with. What does the Greek text point to?

Now to read 1 Corinthians...

Sean du Toit said...

What about prayer? Does that not assume a inter-personal relationship? Vis a vis, Colossians 1? The whole things is about relating to GOD through Jesus, and inviting the world into this relationship. That's what I'm preaching!

eddie said...

Maybe I have blinkers on, but I just dont see it. Could you further elaborate?

Chris Tilling said...

Hi Eddie. Interpersonal, I think. At least that would be the usual mening of the verb in Phil. As an interesting approach, write down what you think a relationship consists of, then look through Pul and see how these appear in Paul's relationship with the risen Lord. Cf. also the use of koinonia (e.g. 1 Cor 1:9), kollomenos (1 Cor 6).
All the best,

candjhuntley said...

I don't know if this will be read as this is in response to an old post, but i felt compelled to say something anyway. First, i appreciate your open and honest heart and desire to hold true to what you find the focus of the scriptures. That's very commendable that you are willing to break from what you already believe and what your peers believe if you find that it is not true to what was laid down by God.

That being said, if a relationship with God through Christ is not the purpose of salvation, then what is? Is not the story of the Bible the fact that God created man, and in that creation provided everything for man so that he would have nothing that would destract him from having a close, loving relationship with his creator in the Garen? And then when man sinned, he was kicked out of the garden b/c the tree of life was found there which was not meant for sinful beings, which also relates to the fact that God, Himself, cannot be around sinful beings (Is 59:2). Then, the wheels were set in motion to bring man back into the proper relationship with God who didn't want that separation. He wanted to justify...but had to be just. He wanted to save...but had to be fair. He wanted the relationship...but couldn't tolerate sin. That's where Jesus comes onto the scene - God incarnate who came to restore that relationship with God.

Then, it seems that those who were believers were transformed into conformity with God. Perhaps you don't see so much about a relationship with God b/c it was simply understood. That was the easy part that wasn't necessary for Paul and others to write about. They had to deal with other issues that were coming up...but everyone understood the aspect of a personal relationship with their God. As the earlier poster suggested, prayer in and of itself denotes this relationship with our creator.

I would suggest as well that the perfect law instructs this. We are to love our God with all our heart, soul, strength, and mind, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. A lot of attention is given to loving our neighbors and much of it revolves around the relationships we are to have with one another which are to be personal relationships (visiting when sick and in prison, clothing and feeding, etc.) Parallel the second command with the first and the greatest command there is is to have a relationship with our Lord and our God. I cannot think of anything MORE important than that in the scriptures...which i believe was evidenced by the way in which Christians lived their lives...as Paul put it in Rom 6 - "to God"