My wife attends a career-change group at our local church. It’s basically folks who are unemployed, underemployed, or looking for a career change. She learns a lot and enjoys the group. Last week she came home and relayed a story about one of the speakers. It was his mission every day to ask at least one person “What does Jesus mean to you?” As you might imagine, he solicits a wide variety of responses – most of them are a deer-in-the-headlight-look as people try to process what it was this person just asked them.
When I asked my wife that question she responded with, “He’s my personal savior, Lord and friend.” Of course, she returned the favor and asked me the same question. I replied, “He is the Son of God, the Messiah and the Savior of the world.” What I wasn’t expecting was for her to wonder if that was all – as though my answer was not personal enough or intimate enough. Naturally, that sparked a conversation.
Was my answer any less personal than hers? Apparently so in her mind, but not in mine. We may not have used the same words, but my answer – for me – was JUST as personal as hers. Of course, she is a loving, caring, giving, and supporting person. All of which speaks to the issue of intimacy and personal intent. A reflection of her answer. For me, I’m loving, caring, giving and supporting, but do those things often in ways that are different. That doesn’t mean I’m discounted in those characteristics, it simply means I’m different.
One of the reasons we have trouble communicating the message of Christ is that we often expect everyone to use the same language. That our terms be similar and mean the same thing. But that’s just not the case. Much of the message of Christ has become complicated by the use of words that don’t always, if ever, mean the same thing to both the speaker and the hearer. This was evident in something our Bible Study leader said in last Sunday’s class. We were talking about the phrase “falling away” as used in the Book of Hebrews and whether it indicated an issue of apostasy or something else. His point was that it was merely a “stumble” and not a falling away. He attempted to bolster that opinion by quoting other verses were different Greek words were used for the same idea but did not carry the weight of “falling away.” Uhm…
My question to him was simple: “Are you telling us that because different writers of different books used different terms for falling away that somehow falling away meant something other than “falling away?”
Words are specific by their very nature. However it’s important for us to understand that a variety of words can be used to communicate the same idea: talk, speak, preach are good examples. “The pastor delivered a great talk this morning.” “I really enjoyed hearing the pastor speak.” “The pastor really preached a good one this morning.” Different words all communicating the same thing from the person who heard the talk. But not always heard in the same way by others.
What does Jesus mean to you? What would you say if some one asked you that? Would you have to think about it or would your answer be spontaneous? Does your answer have to be the same as mine for it to have merit; or mine the same as yours? If your answer is not couched in the same words as mine, does that make it less or more personal?
What Jesus means to me, is exactly that – what Jesus means to me.