…began long before I ever knew there was a relationship. So did my relationship with my parents. A relationship with my parents was begun the moment I was conceived and continued as I was given birth and fed and nurtured by them. We would (hopefully) never say that our personal relationship with our parents didn’t begin until we started taking them more seriously, or until we started to think about all the things they did for us and learn to appreciate them.
But that is how many people talk about Jesus. One person in a college class that I teach online made the comment that she had grown up in a private school where she learned parts of the Bible by heart, and she grew up going to Church. It wasn’t until later, said she, that her personal relationship with Jesus began. Really? Is our relationship with Jesus purely dependent on us being able to reflect on the things He does for us and has done for us, or on our taking our faith more seriously?
I think we insult the Lord when we say things like this. It makes it sound as if the relationship was there because of our personal commitment. It also is usually said with disdain for the previous several years of “just going to church.” Reflecting on my own “relationship” if you will with the Lord Jesus, I have to admit that it wasn’t until high school and college that I really started to take my faith seriously. But I went to church pretty much every Sunday, heard the Word of God, received the Sacrament, was baptized as a child, and was taught as a young boy how to pray. Was that all pointless just because I didn’t always “get it”? Thankfully, no!
What was happening during those years was that the Lord Jesus was establishing a relationship with Me. He was feeding me, teaching me, and nurturing my faith. If you were to have asked me in sixth grade if I believed in Jesus, I would have said “Yes!” My faith was kept alive throughout those early years by the Spirit of Jesus in His Word and Sacrament. I don’t remember every Sunday sermon that I heard preached. I don’t remember feeling anything particularly exciting the first time I received Christ’s body and blood in Holy Communion. Does that mean that it was doing nothing for my soul? By no means!
Let’s be careful when we talk about our “personal relationship with Jesus.” In fact, let’s not even use that language. I’d rather talk about trusting in Him, believing in Him, hearing His Word, etc. That’s how the Bible speaks. That is how we should speak. Thanks for reading.