I have often heard someone say: “It’s not about religion, it’s about a relationship with Jesus.” In fact, I’ve probably said that myself more times than I can count. But I’m wondering if the phrase “relationship with Jesus” also needs to undergo a revernactulation.
The concept of a “relationship with God” or “relationship with Jesus” is not really in the New Testament as we understand. The best comparison that I have found is the concept that we know (γινώσκω) God . This can mean so much more than what we would describe as a relationship. It could also describe that we have come to a knowledge of him, or become aware of him.
Ultimately, I don’t think term relationship with Jesus is incorrect as much as it is incomplete. Far better would be for us to describe that we follow Jesus. This is the most common phrase that Jesus himself uses to describe how we are in relationship with him. It is consistently the call he offers to his disciples throughout the gospels: Matthew 4:19 (In Greek, it actually says “come after me”, but implies that they should follow, which is what 4:20 states that they did.), Mark 2:14, and John 1:43. In Matthew 10:38, this is the language Jesus uses to describe what kind of relationship he desires to have with anyone who chooses it. These are just a brief sampling. The phrase is used to describe the relationship of people to Jesus thorughout the Gospels.
“Follow Jesus” certainly implies that there is a relationship there, but it puts a proper perspective on the relationship. I am not just buddy buddy with Jesus. I am his disciple and he is Lord. I am not simply walking side by side with him through life, but I am struggling to follow as he leads the way to show me what it means to truly be human.