intimately theirs

January 8, 2009

The Christ of the Indian Road is an 80 year old text written by E. Stanley Jones, a Methodist missionary to India in the first half of the 20th Century. He describes the use of a phrase in dialogue with some Indian leaders that later became the title of this book:

I talked to them of my Master. In the midst of the discussion I used the phrase the “Christ of the Indian Road” and I noted how they kept referring to it again and again. It had caught their imagination. He seemed so intimately theirs.

Something was illuminated for Jones in this moment. Christ was no longer someone he was bringing news of to India. Christ was a relevant and present in India a he was in Jones own American background. To allow that Christ belonged as much to the Indians as he did to Jones was to activate their imagination.

There is something important here for me, and perhaps you, to grab a hold of. So often the phrase “sharing Christ” is used with a connotation that I have Christ to offer to you. But to truly share Christ is to understand that Christ was never exclusively mine, even before a conversation was initiated. I wonder how much more helpful it would be to consider that we are “sharing our experience of Christ”.

Those in the church are not the only bearers of the reality of Jesus. What does it mean for Christians to hold an understanding that Jesus is before all things, and in him all things hold together. (Colossians 1:17) Christ is not contained in the church. Rather, somehow, the church, and all of reality, is contained in Christ.

This is not to say that our Christology does not matter, or is purely based on experience. It is important to take into account serious theological and historical reflection of the person of Jesus. Yet is it also important to acknowledge that Jesus is not the exclusive property of the church. What does it look like to be humble learners who engage with the experience of others even as we bring our own experiences and learnings to the table? What does it look like for me to imagine, with others, the Jesus of Austin?

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