“…I am like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child I am content.” – Psalm 131:2
I have a problem with clichés…although I hesitantly admit that I do use them from time-to-time. The problem I have that is that they often reduce ideas, topics, and experiences down to a catchphrase that is, too often, so much more simplistic than the idea, topic or experience merits. Saying to someone, for instance, that “GOD works all things to the good” when they are grieving a loss lacks sensitivity and is an untimely misuse of Romans 8:28. Better to say nothing, and just offer presence. What about this one: “Ignorance is bliss.” No, ignorance is dangerous. I can think of other examples I’ve heard (and maybe even used), as I’m sure you can.
One that particularly grips me is when I hear someone say they have a “personal relationship with Jesus Christ” or when someone says to another that this “personal relationship “ is what they need. To be clear, I don’t quibble with the concept at all. If I did, having this blog would be a gross contradiction. My concern is what I perceive as the uninformed way I’ve heard that phrase bandied about.
CAN YOU SAY MORE ABOUT THAT?
On the occasions I’ve asked someone what having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ means to them, it’s been common to hear something along the lines of “It means that you’ve asked Jesus into your heart, asked Him to forgive your sins, you are made a new creation, and join the family of GOD.” I don’t want to be a jerk, so I try to frame my follow-up query, “Yes…and?” as graciously as I can. It’s usually at this point that I get a few blank stares. I want to know from them what else is going on that makes this important decision more than a transaction. What, specifically, makes this a personal relationship?
Like most writers I know, words are important to me; and words that relate to who we are in Christ and who we are called to be in Christ carry significant meaning. Jesus explained spiritual concepts in common, relatable language, including the heavy use of metaphors and similes, e.g. “The kingdom of heaven is like…” These are simple, clear ways to communicate the high value of the free gift of salvation in Jesus Christ. These parables, however, are not simplistic because they don’t leave the hearer with an incomplete picture of the nature and extent of the offer.
David’s simile (Psalm 131) paints a clear picture of the depths that personal relationship can go, in this instance the relationship between a mother and a toddler. Apart from the abnormal circumstances which do exist for some people, unfortunately, most of us can relate to the depth of love and deep bond between a mother and child. This is a relationship that lasts a lifetime, maturing as both mother and child grow older, but remaining the same at its core. How many of you reading this have traits like your mother or father or both? How many of you have been told, “The way you say that/do that reminds me of your mom/dad?” Parental relationships run deep and leave an indelible, and very often, noticeable mark on each child. Even as individuals, we are never so separated that we don’t remind others of those who birthed us.
David’s illustration is simple but it is not simplistic; it paints a vivid picture with varied colors of spiritual implication. Yes, there were days when you/me/others made decisions that led to a spiritual transaction with GOD, but what else came with that?
I like David’s use of the mother/toddler picture because it puts my relationship with GOD in a much more realistic perspective. I need more than a covering for sin, and a position as a new creation. I need to be the new creation that knows inherently that I am created for Him, that I am completely dependent on Him, and am happy to be with Him. I want it to be deeply personal, not as a proposition but as a living reality.
Perhaps to eclipse the cliché, maybe I’ll start saying, “I have a personal, personal relationship with Jesus Christ,” just to be clear.
© Byron L. Hannon, 2018. All rights reserved for text content.