We hear the phrase “personal relationship with Jesus” often, and often in the form of a question, as in, “Do you have one?” This used to irritate me, when I didn’t have one. It sounded so sappy. So I can imagine there are many, even in church, who are tired of hearing this, and greatly resent those who ask. But how to answer this? How would one know?
I seem to get asked often in casual conversations, “Do you know … so and so?” Just the other day, after three different such questions from the same person, I finally said “Yes, I know him,” just so I wouldn’t look like I just crawled out from under a rock and had no friends.
But I have been pondering the various ways one can respond to, “Do you know ____________?” I could say, “No, I don’t.” Or “I know of him, but don’t really know him.” Or “Yes, but only casually. We’re not close friends.” Or “Yes, but only by reputation.” Or “Yes, I know him, but he wouldn’t know me.”
Or I might respond, “Yes, I know him well. We are close, personal friends.”
Surely you have friends about whom you would say this. Think about the various aspects of your relationship with them that would prompt you to say, “Yes, we are very close friends.”
Close friends would say things like: “We have a lot in common. We talk often, and often about more than just surface topics. We enjoy each other’s company. Although there may be times when we are irritated with each other, I know he or she loves me unconditionally. I can count on them.
“We laugh together. We have cried together. We spend time together. We have experienced life together. She’s always there for me when I need her. I can trust him with my deepest life issues. I would never turn my back on him and I know he would never turn his back on me.”
Can you say this about your relationship with Jesus?
If you can, and if it’s true, this then is what a “personal relationship with Jesus” looks like. It’s really just that simple.
But most would have to respond with one of the above, “Yes, but …,” answers. Their relationship with Jesus is casual at best. They might know of him and about him, some know lots about him, but they simply do not know him personally. There is no shared intimacy.
Do you know Jesus personally? Or is your “Yes” in reality a “Yes, but ….”
This shared intimacy is attainable, it’s real, and it will absolutely enhance and transform your life. But the overwhelming majority of people in the pews on Sunday morning think they know Jesus, but in reality do not. If you doubt this, or resent my saying it, just listen to Jesus:
“Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Sir, open the door for us.’ “But he will answer, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.’ Then you will say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’ But he will reply, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!’” (Luke 13:25-27 Bold added)
All of us know what makes up a deep, close, personal relationship with someone else. There is no confusion about this. And we know we do not have this shared intimacy with Jesus. But somehow we “bob and weave” around the reality when it relates to Jesus.
Are you a, “Yes, but …?” If so, then you are really a, “No, I do not,” and you are missing the greatest friend you’ll ever have.