There is a lot of talk at church about having a personal relationship with God, but what does that mean? How can we even begin to think that the Creator of the universe has the time to sit and be with me? Is it arrogant, misguided, or contradictory to what the Bible says? Because let’s be honest. It sounds slightly egotistical.
The question we should be asking is, what did Jesus say about our interactions with God?
The disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray. “So he said, ‘When you pray, say, Father’” (Luke 11:2 MSG).
Jesus used a term of endearment, Abba, Father. In doing so He was saying God is personal. It’s hard to understand a tangible God, but Jesus modeled how we are to interact with God. He is saying to us, “Look, refer to God as one who cares for you personally, as one who loves you as a father loves a child.” God is spirit; He is sovereign but also deeply personal in the same way that a father is personal.
Jesus told each of His disciples, and us today, that God is personal and relational when He said to address God as Father. Some of us find this title difficult. Bad, abusive relationships from an earthly father have tainted our view of what Jesus is saying in this passage. But even when the relationship is the absolute worst, it is still personal. It is felt and experienced by you and you alone, whether that feeling is pain, abandonment, regret, pure joy or an odd mixture of them all. The relationship between a child and father is unique and personal between those two. Siblings often experience their father different from the other(s), making the story they tell of their childhood uniquely theirs.
So no, it’s not egotistical to have a personal relationship with the God of the universe. Jesus told us to.
OK. So yes, we’re told to make this faith thing personal because, well it is. I mean, God made it personal. Jesus, God’s Son, came to earth to enter into suffering willingly with and for us. It’s definitely personal for Jesus. But a relationship? Seriously. Where does one even begin?
Once again, we can turn to Jesus for guidance on how to have a relationship with God. Jesus prayed, walked in community with others, continuously expanded inclusivity rather than exclusivity and loved through words and actions.
In Matthew 25:31-46 Jesus tells a story that illustrates how we care for and build a relationship with God. It is through loving, caring for and building relationships with humans who are often overlooked and ignored, who are broken and hurting, who need kindness and the love of a neighbor.
Derek Flood argues in the article “A Personal Relationship With God?” that believing in God is to engage in a trust relationship. That relationship goes both ways. It comes from a God who displays worthiness of our trust and from us as we develop a relational faith and “intimate surety that we are known by God.”
If you are wondering what it means to authentically follow Jesus and dive into hard questions as you investigate Jesus, join us on Unfiltered Radio.