Inquirer Question: What do the Orthodox say about having a personal relationship with Christ?

An inquirer into Orthodoxy recently posted this question, seeking to see how the Orthodox respond to the evangelical concept of having a personal relationship with Christ.  This was my response:

I think every Orthodox faithful would tell you they have a personal relationship with Christ. I am not sure that any evangelical protestant would recognize it as the same thing they consider a personal relationship with Christ. Where most Orthodox would say the evangelicals get it wrong is in the idea that “it’s me and Jesus” as a consequence of having a personal relationship with Christ. To have a scriptural, biblical personal relationship with Christ, you need to get the “me” out of there and put the focus where it needs to be, on Christ, not on you.

A good example may be found in last Sunday’s Gospel reading from Matthew, where Jesus comes to the disciples walking on the water. Peter sees him and calls out to him: “Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water.” Notice, Peter does not say, “let me walk on the water like you” nor does he say “meet me halfway on this water” and he certainly doesn’t say, “I invite you to come into my boat (heart)”. Instead he says “bid me come unto thee.” That is what a true personal relationship with Christ is. It is not us “inviting Christ into our hearts.” He’s already there. It is US abandoning ourselves and coming unto Him.

In Galatians, Paul writes “For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ,” a hymn sung at every Orthodox baptism. We must PUT ON Christ. He is the focus of everything. It’s not about us. It’s not about “Jesus and Me.” It is about Christ – that we come unto Him, that we put aside all things and follow Him, that we be transformed by Him.

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