13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. 17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.
I have always found a certain agitation when question about my personal relationship with Jesus. I know that usually when I am asked this question, the person has good attention and yet I have a sense of something not quite right. The feeling I got was hard to pin down as to why the idea of a personal relationship with Jesus being the end all and be all of faith seems to put me on edge.
The theological problems with the phrase are of course easy to spot. It limits Jesus to my BFF or buddy and does not broaden our horizons to others. I can see why it is popular in a culture like ours that turns individualism into a false idol. That God would be friends with me because of my specialness seems ready made for a people who value personal choice and personal success and have been told the secret to life is in personal power.
Yet, it was not until praying through Ephesians this morning did the phrase suddenly become clear as to why it creates a false narrative. Yes, God in Christ becomes a personal matter and I share in the inquiries which place Jesus on the cross. The cross, though, breaks down walls between us and makes Christians into one people. God calls me to be part of the Kingdom and it is Jesus who is the star and we are in supporting roles. The honor of having any role is powerful in and of itsle We become but a living stone in the temple in which Jesus dwells. Our relationship to Jesus is both personal and cosmic. Yet the phrase limits God to just an exclusive relationship. For to enter into an encounter with Jesus is to be called to be part of the one and not be the star of our own movie. We are bit players in the grad story of God living among us and when we make it just about me, we lose being part of the one.
Love can never stay in the place of self love, but it has to move to love go God and others. If we stay in self love, then all there can be is isolation and we lose the Gospel. We are forced into one of others and we then have to confront the pain of the cross that comes from not just our inquiries, but the inquiries of others. We then find hope in forgiveness and the strength in Christ forgiveness of us and extend it to others expanding the dwelling place of God. For the more that become a living stone in the temple, the greater the unity among us. Can we do this… break down the walls that separate us from one another. No. But Jesus in his cross and resurrection can and we go from the isolation of the personal to the glories of community with God and others. Amen.