“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
What is Christianity. We can formulate an answer to this question in any number of ways; who is Jesus? What is the Christian faith? However the question is framed the question really is, What’s the hub of it all?
I would have to say that the Christian faith is a personal relationship with God. Or a personal relationship to Jesus Christ. Or a personal relationship to God in Jesus Christ. However we say it, one thing we want to say is that the Christian faith is not impersonal, it is personal. When I was a boy the The old hymn” In the Garden” was sung routinely in worship. Perhaps the most familiar line in that hymn says ‘He walks with me and talks with and tells me I am his own.’ Some find this language too intimate, too personal but I don’t. The Christian faith is an intensely personal thing. It’s a very common and appropriate way to talk about the faith.
Mick Jagger – who isn’t your ordinary, garden variety theologian had a song lyric years ago which went something like, ‘Don’t want to hear any more about Jesus, I just want to see His face.’ Enough talk, I want to see Jesus. He wants this Jesus business to be personal. That reflects what an awful lot of people in the Church would want to say; enough talk, enough theology, we just want to see Jesus. And of course, we find this in the new testament. A man came to the disciples and said, “Sir, we would see Jesus.” So, it’s a personal thing.
We can look at the Bible, and if we pick it up with that handle, we can see that the Biblical story is a series of personal relationships, encounters with God.
God goes to Noah and says it may be dry now but rain is coming, lots of it, and you need to build a very large boat. Noah’s not too sure but he builds it anyway. He wouldn’t do that unless there was something very personal going between God and himself, and everything hangs on that personal relationship between god and Noah.
God comes to Abraham and he says, Abe, I want you to pack up and leave this place, leave your land and kinfolk and just take off. Oh and by the way I’m not going to tell you where you are going,maybe later. Just go. Well that’s not the kind of thing one does on the basis of test tubes and calculators. Abraham did that because he was overwhelmed by this very personal word from God.
Isaiah. God appears to him and he has a great vision and he is overwhelmed by being in the presence of the Holy One, and he is stricken, smitten and afflicted – the Bible says – and he realizes his guilt. It’s an intensely personal encounter.
God speaks to the prophets. And this also seems to be intensely personal because they seem to be the only ones that know what the message is. And the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah. The word of the Lord came to Isaiah, etc.
Jesus comes to Matthew in the toll gate, singles him out and talks to him. Zacchaeus up in the tree is called down by Jesus and they go to lunch.
The Samaritan woman at the well – Jesus asks for a drink of water then begins to speak of the intimate details of her life.
One to one stuff, personal encounters with God.
At the end of the day there can be no substitute for this personal dimension. “For God so loved the world…”means God loves you and me. Theological reflection on the faith is fine, even necessary. But if it does not lead to the proclamation of the Word of the Gospel as a personal, gracious encounter God, it has missed it’s point – and purpose.
“May the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.”