A phrase that I’ve heard all my life and never thought much of, but have really taken notice to lately, is when I hear someone talk about their “personal relationship” with God. The interesting thing about it is that I never hear that phrase for anything else. When someone is talking about their relationship to someone else, they never say “personal relationship”. It is always just “relationship”. So, why do Christians not just say “my relationship”, and feel the need to say “personal”?
I have some thoughts as to why I think Christians should reconsider the use of this phrase and instead just use “relationship”:
1.) It sounds closed off, private, and uninviting to questions. Adding the word “personal” makes it.. personal. And the phrase “personal” these days is often used as a synonym for “private”, or something that other people shouldn’t know about. I know you’ve heard it before. You ask someone a question, and the only answer you get is, “it’s personal”. So while Christian culture has clearly accepted the term “personal relationship”, outside American culture’s understanding of this could make it seem closed off and uninviting.
2.) What relationship isn’t personal? You don’t have relationships with someone that aren’t personal. That’s the whole definition of a relationship you have. So, the adding “personal” to relationship is basically pointless anyway.
3.) The individualization of Christianity. I may need to keep this point short because I might want to focus a post on my thoughts on this, but it does seem that Christianity is slowly becoming more and more just an individualized thing, and not a group effort. According to the Bible, Christianity is very much meant to be lived out with other believers, the Church. A Great example of this, is Jesus’ disciples. It doesn’t seem like he had a bunch of one-on-one individual time with them. They were a group who were always together learning and growing in their knowledge and understanding of God and Godly living. So, this “personal relationship” just seems, perhaps, to make it more individual and private than it is really supposed to be.