We talk about having personal things. We employ a personal trainer to help us shed pounds and get that coveted beachbody. We open a personal bank account to manage our finances. And, please, keep your hands off our personal property and your eyes out of our personal diary. But what about our personal relationship with Jesus?
Christians, especially Evangelicals, import this language into their faith as well. We talk about having a personal relationship with Jesus. Or working on our personal relationship with him. Or desiring that relationship to grow, to deepen, to become more intimate.
Here’s the thing: Christianity is not about a personal relationship with Jesus. The phrase is never found in the Bible. And the whole biblical witness runs contrary to it.
Our life with Christ is communal, not personal or private or individual. When the Scriptures speak of believers, they are part of a community, a fellowship of other believers.
Christianity is about a church relationship — not a personal relationship with Jesus.
I know this runs contrary to what many modern believers think. And even desire. In an age when we are more isolated than ever, when our worlds often shrink to the size of a phone screen, talk of community sounds like a radical departure from the norm. It is. But the norm of the Christian faith is not isolated believers, little islands of spirituality, but a continent of Christians banded together by the Spirit.
We are baptized into one body, the body of Jesus. Our so-called personal relationship with Jesus is indeed with his person—his body of which all other believers are a part. Fingers don’t have a relationship with Jesus apart from the hand, the hand from the arm, the arm from the shoulder, and so on.