A Personal Relationship with Jesus?
We’ve all heard versions of the phrase: “You can have a personal relationship with Jesus.” or, “I have a personal relationship with the Lord.” etc.
Here’s a slightly long version of it that I read recently:
“The point of a personal relationship with Jesus is that Jesus is specifically concerned with the details of every person’s life. If a friend came to you and said “You know, I’d just like to go get some coffee and spend some time with you and talk about what is going on in your life” would you be selfish to accept? Not if the person is truly sincere in that they want to know. So that’s how I see it. Not as something selfish, but in fact as responding to an invitation to spend personal time with Jesus. Because He loves each one of us, both as a body of believers, and as individuals.”
At some point in my de-conversion process it struck me that this idea is bunk. I’ve had friends offer to sit and talk over a lunch, but I’ve definitely never done lunch with Jesus.
As I thought it through, I realized that the whole “personal relationship/ revelation/ experience” jag is just another delusion.
If you told me that you had a personal relationship with the President of the U.S., I would take that to mean that you talked to him face to face, or maybe by phone, from time to time; that you probably had dinner with him sometime, or maybe played golf or went jogging with him; that you’d been to his house; and so on.
Now suppose you told me that you had a personal relationship with the President, and upon my asking for more details, you told me that you wrote him a letter and he wrote back. Then you pull out the letter and show it to me. Upon reading the letter, it’s clear to me that it’s the same sort of form letter that anyone would get if they wrote to the White House. It just says something like:
“Thank you for your letter. Your issues are very important to me. Your concerns, and those of others, help to inform me and my cabinet about what is important in the lives of all Americans. We will keep them very much in mind as we make governmental decisions. Please continue to let us know your concerns and thoughts. Sincerely, GW”
Now am I going to believe you’ve got a personal relationship with the President? Of course not. And if you insist that you do because “He said that he’ll remember what I wrote and his whole cabinet will hear about it.” I’ll think you’re a bit nutters won’t I?
So what have you got in a “personal relationship” with God? You send up any amount of prayers and you get no response. If you want God to “talk back” to you, you turn to the Bible and say, “Look here. It says He knows me. It says He hears my prayers. That’s a personal promise to me.” …… Yeah, to you and x-billion other people who can read the same “form letter”.
C’mon. It’s not a personal letter to you (and x-billion others). They aren’t promises to you. Sheesh! Talk about being egocentric.
When God shows up, in person, on your doorstep (No, the “angels unaware” tack does not count.), or when God cures a lifelong paraplegic before your eyes, or when God catches you after your parachute fails, and sets you down gently and audibly says, “Be more careful now.” then you’ve got something personal.
To use the example I cited at the top; when a friend asks you out for coffee and a heart to heart talk, you’ve got a personal relationship. No doubt about it. I know of no one who has been asked to tea by Jesus.
Sorry, but it’s not a personal relationship. Heck, it’s even less than getting a letter from the President. At least there’s a small chance that you might actually be able to meet him and shake his hand.