5/3/16 Roger about 45
For many generations, a common question in sharing the Christian faith was "Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus?" It is a well-meaning question meant to distinguish between a faith that is identified by outward signs such as religious acts, attending church, growing up in a Christian home, doing good deeds, or saying the right things, and a faith relationship that truly engages the heart, mind and strength of a person in their devotion to Jesus. It is an important question to ask, but we need to be careful because it means different things to different people.
A truck driver named Roger, for example, whom we reached out to at a truck stop a few days ago, had some different ideas about just what a "relationship with Jesus" meant. First, as a non-practicing Mormon, his idea of Jesus would be based on the Mormon concept that Jesus is a created being, a "son of god" like the rest of us. A relationship with that Jesus would be very different from a relationship with Jesus the Son of God, Creator of the Universe.
Roger also claims to be spiritual but not religious. He believes religious authority is man-made, such as the various churches throughout history, church leaders and even the Bible itself. Since Roger rejects the concept that God might establish and speak through earthly authorities for a time in order to accomplish His purposes, he is left with the only authority he trusts - his own imagination. He can only form a "relationship" with an idol - a concept of a god that is only the product of his own ideas and preferences.
Finally, Roger's idea of relationship itself is very different from what is usually meant by Christians of having a relationship with Jesus. Roger likes to talk, but I could tell he doesn't much like to listen. It is hard to have a relationship based on this sort of one-way communication. In the end he claimed "Oh I have a relationship with God. I talk to Him every day!" But does he listen? Roger talks to God because he has a heartfelt desire to be reunited with his wife. He prays every day to that end. My sense for Roger is that his relationship with God is limited to the idea of a god who exists to fulfill his wishes. He doesn't give God room to rule on His throne in his life.
Everyone has some sort of "relationship" with God. The real question is, what kind of a relationship? The kind of relationship Jesus alone can give us is "righteousness" - a right relationship - that puts God on the throne in our lives. It is not a relationship in which God tolerates unrepentant sin, and it is not a relationship based on our own supposed self-righteousness. It is a right relationship with God that can only be entered into on God's terms. I pray Roger will not fool himself into thinking God accepts anything less.