Over time I am slowly dropping the phrase “a relationship with Jesus” from my religious dialog.
I used to use it all the time. The analogy of the Christian faith went something like this: Faith in Jesus is not a religion but a relationship. The idea was that as a follower of Jesus you did not have a bunch of meaningless religious practices to participate in, rather a savior to connect to personally. I have said something about a “relationship with Jesus” more times that I care to recall.
Lately, I have been using the concept of a journey instead. I like to speak of all of us being on a journey with God. Either we are far away from him, and he is waiting for us to join him, or we are near, and we are walking side by side. I have slowly replaced saying we need to have a relationship with Jesus to we need to walk with Jesus on our journey with God.
Here is why I am changing my words and image.
1. Most People Do Very Little in Relationships. If you were to ask most men what they are doing to build their relationship with their wife you will be greeted with blank stares and confused looks. What do you mean build a relationship? We work and take care of things, and if the other person is mad, then we try to make them happy again. Usually, the only individuals who talk about working on their relationship are having a difficult time. When I view my life with God as a relationship, it can easily mean that I spend most of my time doing nothing to grow. That is until there is some crisis in my life.
2. A Journey Is a Daily Project. If you are on a trip then every day you must pack up your stuff and get moving. You have places to go and things to see. A journey requires you to keep moving one step at a time day after day in the right direction. Faith is active. Every day you are expected to go forward in knowledge, in service, and in hope. There is an expectation that today we may see and do things that we have never experienced before.
3. A Relationship Can Be Viewed Very Selfishly. What’s in it for me? When will my dinner be ready? Have you cleaned my house? Have you taken care of me? If you don’t, then I am out the door. I have encountered people whose marriage is all about what they can get out of it. I have also viewed Christian people who have the same concept of faith. What has God done for me? If he doesn’t make me happy, then I am out of here.
4. A Journey Has a Destination. When someone heads out on a journey, they hope to end up somewhere better and more exciting that where they are now. The reason we endure airports, long delays, uncomfortable seats and high prices are because of where that plane takes us. The reason we sit for hours in a vehicle with whining kids while eating fast food is that when we arrive at the beach, it will be priceless. The reason Christians live with sacrifice and service are because one day we hope to arrive at our own little slice of heaven.
I know there is a lot more I could say about these two images. The contrasts can be kind of interesting.
Maybe I am making a big deal about a small thing, but I feel the analogies we use are important. I do not want anyone to get the wrong idea of what it means to follow Jesus. Yes, Christianity is about a relationship with God through Jesus, but that relationship is not about setting up a house in the suburbs and living the American dream. That relationship is about locking arms with Jesus on the journey of a lifetime that will take us places we never dreamed until the day we reach our new home.