Friday, March 13, 2009

Gettin' Personal

The foundational assumption of the evangelical movement is that we need to have--everyone say it together--a personal relationship with Jesus Christ as Our Lord and Savior. We need to be aware of Jesus not as an idea, or a historical figure, or a teacher of doctrine, but as a real presence. He's always there for us. He's our friend. He walks with us, he talks with us, he tells us we are his own. All that good stuff.

But then I read through John, and all those intimate and powerful teachings about who Jesus was and what it really means to be his disciple, and I git to scritchin' my head a little bit. Because the relationship Jesus describes in that Gospel seems to be of a radically different character than the relationships we have with other homo sapiens. Jesus says:

John 14:20 On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.
John 15:4-5 Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.
John 17:21-23 As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

That's not a "personal relationship," at least not as we generally understand it. The bond that Jesus expresses seems to go far deeper than that. What Christ is describing is transpersonal, a relationship that breaks down the normal existential boundaries between we human beings. I think there's a real difference between relating to him as we relate to another person and abiding in him, so immersed in his presence that it becomes hard to tell where he begins and we leave off.

So which is it? A little bit of both, methinks.