Personal Relationship with Jesus Christ?

To be honest, that phrase makes very little sense to the average Muslim in the Arab world, which is what I'm used to. Of course, I do get back to the West from time and time and I think it makes very little sense to the average non-evangelical there too. The emphasis on 'personal' means that thi form of Christianity has caved into Western-Cartesian concepts of the self. Very unhealthy.

Here is a bit from the post in question:

But I’m not sure that using the phrase “personal relationship with Jesus” in our witnessing efforts helps us gauge a person’s spiritual life like it used to. Times are changing. I have met and talked with people who assure me that they have a “personal relationship with Jesus,” even though their lives show no evidence of Christ’s indwelling presence. Others tell me they know Jesus personally but have no need for the local church. A few are all about “personal relationships” with key religious figures.


Read it all here, and chime in.

Comments

Jonathan said…
I posted a longer comment on the original blog post, but I loved this quote by Pope Benedict XVI so much that I thought I'd post it here as well:

"Consequently, Christian faith is not only a matter of believing that certain things are true, but above all a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. It is an encounter with the Son of God that gives new energy to the whole of our existence. When we enter into a personal relationship with him, Christ reveals our true identity and, in friendship with him, our life grows towards complete fulfilment." (http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/messages/youth/documents/hf_ben-xvi_mes_20100806_youth_en.html)

Now that's a definition personal relationship that I can agree with.
Abu Daoud said…
Thanks Jon,

But the thing is that the Pope speaks on this within a much deeper and historically-oriented community. Which means, in my mind, that when he says it, it really makes sense and works. That is not the case with many evangelicals in the West though.

Thanks for dropping in.

AD
Jonathan said…
Sure. I do find it interesting that the phrase "personal relationship", which has always "owned" by evangelicals, is coming into mainstream Catholicism just as evangelicals are beginning to question it. (That particular phrase has been used in charismatic Catholic circles for a while, but I wouldn't consider that mainstream. )
John said…
But in that case, then, the problem isn't with the phrase itself but with the community.

Having a personal relationship with Jesus as part of our (the Church's) corporate relationship with Jesus makes perfect sense.

And when preaching into the context of formal and at times ritualistic Christianity, a personal relationship with Jesus is exactly what we often need to preach.

But yes, where the problem in the church is a Western/Cartesian concept of the self, then we probably need to put more emphasis on the corporate aspect of that relationship. As a book title "Stop Dating the Church and Fall in Love with the Family of God!" is a very good one.
Stephi said…
I am interested more in knowing what Arab Christians feel about the phrase. It would be interesting to know a bit more about this concept from their point, if you are able to provide any information on that.

Sometimes, I think that this idea of personal relationship can easily be interpreted as "Friendship" and while that term can encompass many boundaries, I do not know if it necessarily lends one to be a follower. For one to be friends with Jesus or, in fact, with God, it puts that person on an emotional level that doesn't necessarily evoke devotion, submission, and unyielding commitment. So, it would make sense that people who consider Jesus to be their friend no longer strive to live like him, or try to follow in his word. A friend accepts you for who you are and that means that if I feel Jesus is my friend, then he just accepts the fact that I am not going to church, giving my tithing, helping the less fortunate, or forgiving those who trespass against me. (Ultimately, that is what Jesus will/should do, but as a friend?).

Maybe the original intent was to bring followers closer through emotional investment. I am not sure here. But, when someone says "I have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, do you?" It really makes me think of parodies like "the Buddy Christ", and in the end minimizes the monumental greatness that is God and his gifts to man kind.

Again, great post. Thanks for letting me leave my thoughts
Jonathan said…
@ Stephi:

True enough from our contemporary understanding of friendship, but perhaps that is because our understanding of it is flawed. Jesus himself calls us his friends (John 15:14-15), though that is on the condition of obedience.
I think that in the case of the phrase "personal relationship with Jesus Christ," the main problem is the definition of the word relationship, not the word personal. What does the word relationship mean to an Arab or a Muslim? I'm guessing something very different than what it means to a white, middle-class American Evangelical. Heck, I'm a white, middle-class American Catholic and I suspect it means something different to me too.

It's crucial for us to remember that Muslims have a radically different relationship with God and the prophets than we do. A better question for Muslims and Arabs would be, "How do you relate to God and/or Jesus?"

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