Christianity as Lived Relationship

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By Jessica Lincoln, Benedictine College

The beautiful reality of Christianity is that it is a lived-out relationship with the Person of Jesus Christ, who is the Incarnate God-man, and that personal relationship must be the foundation of one’s every thought, word, and deed. Jesus strategically reveals His divine identity at the time and in the manner He knows will reach His disciples based on His relationship with them. Jesus forms relationships with His followers before revealing His identity to them because He knows that otherwise, they will not believe Him.

While people question Jesus’ identity from the start of His public ministry, He is patient and allows His disciples to foster their own personal experience of Him before disclosing the truth of His divinity. Luigi Giussani, a explains, “Christ [does] not immediately and completely answer this question born in the hearts of the people who [follow] him, who… become accustomed to his way of speaking, his behavior, his influence and authority over men and things”.1 Jesus ensures that His followers know Him personally before beginning to uncover the mystery of who He is. Moreover, Jesus unveils His identity not only at the time at which his disciples are ready to hear it, but also in the manner in which they are able to hear it. Instead of employing doctrinal terms, Jesus reveals His identity in a Jewish way, because He knows that is what His disciples, who are Jews, will understand. Jesus uses the term “Son of God” rather than “second person of the Holy Trinity” because he is “Jewish, born at that time, of that particular social background, and he would only have used the terms of the mentality belonging to a man of that period and that social background”.2 Jesus relates to the people of His historical time in a way He knows they can grasp. This relational method of revelation can help one understand the emergence of Christological and Trinitarian doctrine from the Christian experience of God in Christ. By meeting God face-to-face in Christ, the first Christians learn about the personal nature of God- the fact that Jesus is God but also the Son of God- which constitutes the beginning of Christianity’s understanding of the Trinity.

Christianity, established by Jesus Christ, is a personal encounter that is lived out. Christianity is not one religion among many; rather, Christianity is Jesus, and Jesus is The Way. Therefore, religiosity, at its roots, is a relationship that is lived out with God. Relationship with Christ, who is God, makes one a Christian, but that relationship must be evident by the way one lives. If not acted upon, the relationship is not true. At the core of all one does and searches for, religiosity must be present, or everything will fall apart. Giussani cautions: “To the extent that religiosity is not at the foundation of the search for” the solution to man’s problems, “they generate ever greater confusion in the history of the individual and humanity as a whole”.3 The importance of relationship with Christ in one’s search for meaning cannot be overstated. From the beginning, Jesus establishes His role as The Way of salvation, not as a way to be imitated but as The Way for each person to enter. Based on Giussani’s claims, it follows that Christ, as the Incarnate God-man, is both central and essential to Christianity. He pursues each person individually and passionately. Therefore, the role of the Christian is to respond to Christ by cultivating a relationship with Him and leading others to do the same. Without having a relationship with Jesus, one cannot truly be a Christian except in name. This recognition of the importance of religiosity and of Christianity as a personal relationship can help one learn to think critically in a Trinitarian and Christological manner. If the reality of Christ and the Trinity is that Christ is the second member of the one God who is three Persons, then it follows that Christians must live in the way that Christ taught, which means keeping one’s relationship with God at the center of everything, even (and especially) to the point of total self-giving for the sake of God.

Footnotes

  1. Luigi Guissani, At the Origins of the Christian Claim, trans. Viviane Hewitt (Canada: McGill-Queen’s University
    Press, 1998), 60.
  2. Guissani, 66-67.
  3. Guissani, 97.

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