I think, somewhere along the way, we made the Christian faith far more privatized and personal than it was ever intended to be.
You may have heard phrases like (or even said some yourself)
As long as I got Jesus, I'm good.
It's just me, myself, and Jesus.
Jesus is my personal Lord and Savior.
Such phrases make our scope and our world so limited and so small. It's human nature to want to be tribal — to look inward, to worry about the survival and welfare of ourselves. But the movement of Christ is not only countercultural, it also often goes against our natural tendencies to privatize.
I don't want to minimize the importance of personal salvation or diminish the acceptance of Jesus Christ as one's personal Lord and Savior. It's just that I believe there is more to our Christian faith than a solely personal and private salvation.
For starters, I think it makes our faith rather self-centered and self-absorbed; like I just have to look out for myself. My concern is simply my relationship with Jesus — I ain't got time to be concerned with others.
And then, maybe when I'm concerned with my relationship with Jesus it will lead me to be concerned with other people's relationships with Jesus, too.
This forces us to be more inward focused and more exclusionary. Instead of focusing on how we may help people in other parts of the world — or even our neighbors — we have our own needs to take care of. We start to believe we should focus on our needs because as long as we got Jesus… we gonna be alright.
If all I had to worry about was myself — that as long as I got Jesus, I should be fine — I feel like the Greatest Commandment could've just been left at "love God with all that you are."
(Un)fortunately, Jesus makes the Greatest Commandment twofold: Love God and love your neighbor.
I don't think God ever intended God's covenant with us to be for the individual. When God called Abram (Genesis 12), the blessing that God gave was:
"I will make of you a great nation and will bless you.
I will make your name respected, and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you,
those who curse you I will curse;
all the families of the earth will be blessed because of you." (Genesis 12:1-3, emphasis added).
Even through the blessing and call of Abraham, God is including not just his family; not just his tribe; not just his country; but all the families of the earth.
When we are baptized, we're not just being baptized into our own salvation, but we are joining the community of Christians. Isolation and privatization seem impossible when it comes to Jesus.
Baptism doesn't give us some elite status that makes us better (or holier) than the unbaptized. I believe baptism does something different: it takes us where Jesus is.
And where is Jesus? Richard Rohr tells us that Jesus' loyalty doesn't lie within a tribe, a country, a nationality, a political party —"Jesus is always loyal to human suffering, more than to any group or religion. That is where we will meet him."
Just as Jesus' incarnation brought him smack dab in the middle of humanity with all of its brokenness, sinfulness, pain, suffering, muck, and warts, being baptized in Christ takes us smack dab in the middle of humanity as well. We go into the depths of all that is humanity, all the while being immersed in the depth of God's love.
Similar to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's quote: "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere", Rowan Williams wrote "what affects one Christian affects all, what affects all affects each one" (Being Christian, Rowan Williams).
To be baptized is to be with Jesus. And to be with Jesus, as Rowan Williams noted, "is to be where human suffering and pain are found and is also to be with other human beings who are invited to be with Jesus."
It is part of our calling to look beyond just our needs and the needs of our tribe. We are connected, not just to Jesus, but to those who are being invited to Jesus — which is everyone. As Andy Stanley once said, "Everybody matters to God, even if God doesn't matter to them."
And because we are baptized — if everyone matters to God, they should matter to us even if we don't matter to them. Therefore, we should be thinking along the lines of as long as I got Jesus, I should ensure that I help others feel okay.
It really should be it's me, Jesus and y'all.
Joseph Yoo is a West Coaster at heart contently living in Houston, Texas with his wife and son. He serves at Mosaic Church in Houston. Find more of his writing at josephyoo.com.
[Posted June 18, 2019]