No One REALLY Walks and Talks With Jesus

When speaking about matters of faith, we Christians use (duh: what else?) the only language available to us. But using language to capture the reality of God is like trying to use numbered children’s blocks to teach quantum physics. It’s simply insufficient for the job.

By default, then, the language we employ to describe our relationship with Christ is precisely the same language we use to talk about our actual, human relationships. We say that we “walk” with Jesus, “talk” with Jesus, “spend time” with Jesus; Jesus is “beside” us; he “holds our hand,” and so on.

While all along, of course, we don’t literally do any of those things with Jesus.

Words we use to describe our everyday interactions and relationships take on entirely different meanings when employed to describe our religious experiences. And the difference between those two modes of usage—that sort of ongoing, purposeful cognizant disconnect—can unfortunately end up creating some real stress in the lives of believers.

So, about that. Don’t ever in the slightest way worry that you don’t really see, speak, talk, walk, go to the beach, or have lunch with Jesus. No one else does, either. People sometimes fall prey to the idea that they have to act as if the relationship they have with Jesus is every bit as real as the relationship they have with any other human they love, but that’s just a mistake they’re making. They’ve been … duped by language.

Don’t you be! Remember: No one ever gets feedback from Christ any more real, specific, or pointed than you do. Nobody on earth is holding hands with Christ. Nobody (sane) ever has actual conversations with Christ.

Until the time comes when you actually can communicate with Jesus in the same way you now communicate with, say, your mailman, you have within you the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the entirety of God and Christ. And the Holy Spirit communicates to you in a language that you, and only you, can understand. That’s the beautiful, precious, inviolate reality of your relationship with Christ. It’s between you, him, and nobody else.

Everything else is just talk.

About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here), and executive editor of the Unfundamentalist Christians group blog.  (In total John's two blogs receive some 250,000 views per month.) John is also co-founder of The NALT Christians Project, which was written about by TIME,  The Washington Post, and others. His website is JohnShore.com. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. Don't forget to sign up for his mucho-awesome newsletter.

  • Chritsine

    Actually was in a lecture about the inadequacy of words when it comes to God just the other week. Like how you put it here, lots of people do have this issue. A saying I heard, and have now adopted, that I think is awesome is "God's love and forgiveness for you is not dependant on how you are feeling, it is a reality despite how we may feel"……you can feel guilty or like God is far away but that is our 'feelings' and God is working despite them.

    As always Johnny, thanks for your insight, a pleasure to read :)

  • http://www.1truebeliever.wordpress.com wickle

    John, first of all … I'd like to apologize for my silence lately. I have seen your posts about your wife, and I want you to know that I am praying for you.

    As for this post … I used to have that same kind of problem, hearing about people whose lives with Jesus seemed to be so much more vibrant than my own. I have since learned, though, that a lot of those people are putting on airs because it sounds good. As I got closer to members of my church, I found out that they're people just like me — they don't know every chapter and verse by heart, they have failings, etc.. And sometimes they ask God, "What the heck?" Other times, they forget to clean up their language.

    Great post, as ever.

  • Lynn Wynar

    You are still an incredible marksman John. Thank you.

  • Allen

    Thanks for getting this issue out in the open, John! I tend to dismiss the authenticity of folks who claim this one-on-one buddy-movie relationship with Jesus. So you did two things here — helped me see that they’re doing the best they can to describe the indescribable, and got me off my “my relationship with God must be so much deeper because I don’t talk that way about it” high horse. And I’m always happy to hear the Holy Spirit get some press!

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Hey, guys. Thanks, truly, for these kind responses. (And thanks for the love, Wickle.) This is an idea I’ve been developing for about two years now. I wasn’t sure I’d ever be able to get so much of its core down into such a small space, so I really appreciate these affirmations that … well, that I did. So thank you.

  • Steve

    When my wife lay dying and I was asked to pull the plug I cried out to Jesus and told Him I couldn’t make that decision He would have to do that for me. I walked to her room choking on my tears and grabbed her hand. Honey I am here. Her heart stopped in that instant.Sadly mine did not. She flatlined after two weeks in the hospital. Who kept me from jumping off the roof of that parking garage when my heart was ripped out of my chest? The same one that has been my teacher for twenty plus years. The one that answered my prayer when I couldn’t have my will be done. I still hurt like hell two years later and yeah my heart is still shattered but in some intangible way He is the glue that makes my life livable. He talks to us in so many ways and I know its a two way converstation. The whole Bible is about learning how to hear Him and be a part of His life. Learning heavenly language. If I hear someone talking spanish to someone else I believe there is communication there. I can’t participate because I don’t know enough of how the syntax relates to the world in which I live. So is thier conversation real? Nahhhh can’t be because it is beyond what I am able to currently comprehend. Wait a sec though. Signs of comprehension are demonstrated between them so external evidence is given of what has occurred between them. There is the thing the proof is in the living out the changes the meetings with God brings. I think that the meeting between Paul and Jesus was very real on the road to emmaus. We each have our own road to that meeting. That meeting was once but the communication obviously continued over years or we would be without some of the most inpspired teaching ever penned. Some pretend of that there is no doubt but if we doubt what is possible for us or for God what good is our faith? Just because something is counterfeit doesn’t mean that something else very real doesn’t exist. I could feign speaking spanish but what happens when I meet someone that truly understands that language? The genuine reveals the fake. Jesus Come quickly and reign for ever Amen.

    • Bill

      A very moving personal account Steve. My heart goes out to you. I agree: *******He talks to us in so many ways and I know its a two way conversation*********

      Now you don’t indicate where you stand on gay issues, so I don’t know how you may react to what I’m going to say, and I’m not speaking only to you but all the readers. During and after the latter years of my marriage, divorce and gay life, I often prayed in agonizing tears to have this cup removed from me, but it never happened and after several years of that, I finally gave up emotionally exhausted and said, “OK. I’m gonna be what I am and if it’s not right, I trust you to make a different way for me cause I can’t do this anymore.” During that time and to this day, I devoured dozens of books on the issues, learned that I wasn’t alone and that I was not a bad person and that what I felt was loving and good. Lust? Of course. Who made that a four letter word? What hetero Christian would honestly deny lust for his/her lover or spouse? Mine is no less wrong because it is homosexual. I am gay today and at peace with it.

      There are those who will not comprehend that I can say this, but Jesus or some higher power that he represents, held me together and gave me the courage to give it up to that power, and I have had that terrible weight lifted from me for nearly 20 years now. What a lightness of being that was and remains. I am gay. Once reconciled to it, it is no less difficult a life that str8 life. The difficulty lies in the struggling against it.

      Some will say I am deceived, but I dismiss that because I know as only I can….and they cannot. God does speak in different ways that may not necessarily be their ways and I firmly believe He is speaking to His Church today in this homosexual dialogue all over the world, just as He spoke and speaks about racial and women’s issues. Some suggest God quit talking to us at the end of Revelations….or somewhere……wherever, they can’t really say of course. I submit He is still talking.

      • Sam Lance

        Well in reply then God must appoligize to Sodom and Gomorahfor destoying a city who was "born that way". Some have the same desires to do things with YOUNG i mean VERY YOUNG CHILDREN, just because they come to peace with it wont make it okay with God. Its a Choice, and we have to Choose RIGHT. I do know some have overcome the battle with Homosexuality and Lesbianism and became awesome christians, God's Graceis amazing, I'm Married to awife who was Lesbian, I know what of I speak. Thank God there is a cure, but giving in isnt the cure for homosexuality, anymore than Dugs or alchol, Roberry, Lying, Adualtry, Idolatry, wichcraft, All will burn in the lake of Fire if not Transformed, and changed.

        • dave

          Just as there is a cure for bad spelling. It's called education.

          • Mary G

            ROFLMAO!!!!! AMEN, brother!

        • Soulmentor

          I am that Bill, now Soulmentor and I just came across this blog again and was re-reading it when I came across myself. Didn’t even recognize it at first as I was thinking that sounds exactly like my story, when I suddenly realized it was me! So Sam, if you if you never see this, perhaps someone will who needs to see it more than you, and this is my response.

          What a preposterously silly response to what I wrote. Not because you disagree with me, but because you disagree based upon such mind-blowing superstitious ignorance, not to mention the insult of the company you include me in. I know I’ll never convince you, but God help anyone YOU convince!

      • Claire

        I just don't understand how a true christian can equate child molestation to homosexuality. Of course Sodom and Gommorrah were real. But God was ticked off by the wickedness of group sex, rape, and the like. Homosexuals are just as capable and deserving of having a one on one loving relationship as heterosexuals. God loves his children. You can be a christian and in a loving homosexual relationship. I am a "straight" woman. I have known loving gay couples, both male and female. Some are remarkable christians! Others are not. Just as many heterosexual couples I know…I suggest to all anti-gay christians, open your hearts! "Judge not lest ye be judged"

        Peace

  • Hjordes

    John, I'm very sorry you're going through this experience with Cat. I've just read the news, and I'm scared right along with you. Gawd…God!…geesh…damnit…hugs to both…

    I loved this blog. It's an adult-world blog. It's right on, for the most part. But it makes me wonder about the children.

    My parents, pastors, church raised me in absolute faith. Unusual, unbelievable, lucky me!

    I know the walk-with-me-talk-with-me experience IS real, can be real, because I experienced it. Like one of those para-psychology stories everyone tells their best friends and no one really believes (well, I do, shhhh), I lived that "human" type relationship with Jesus when I was a kid, before I grew up and learned to be blind. Maybe it takes a child's brain to get there; not a suspension of disbelief but the naivety you have before you grow up and know better.

    Was I a child with an "imaginary friend"? Or maybe I was like the person on the operating table who sees the tunnel of light — was it "the" light or random neurons firing?

    I believe it was "The" light. Real or not, I still get glimpses of that relationship. I experience it during communion occasionally, and it's really not fun. It's like having a wonderful dream about being with the person you loved who has died, then waking up to find out that they're gone, except in your head.

    I think that heaven might be being back there again, walking and talking without needing to see.

    • Sam Lance

      Wow, so you grew up and BECAME a THOMAS, hmmmm Well guess what it can still be real but not if you think He'snot real. He;s not Santa Clause, or Easter Bunny, or superman. He is real you guys want to keep your almost belieif go ahead, and you getto be almost christians. It does say in the Bible you must become as little children……I do hope you do believe THe Bible still….Like a Childs Faith he jumps and just knows that we will catch them.. MEaning you dont have to sit down and explain the laws of physics and….no they just jump. Its not Logic…it Called…..F>>A>>I>>T>>H. Any you seem a little short on it as well as the roginal writter John….Just becuase you dont got it dont dis those who do.

      Like he says about Logic and the Bible like its bad to say…Its True Because The Bible Says it. What are you saying John…is the Bible WRONG sometimes…..The MAsses thought the world was falt but the Bible says it was round….then the world found out …oh yeah its round…was the Bible wrong while it wasnt logical…no.

  • http://REXTHEKINGBLOG rex

    I beleive in Jesus in an ever present way, the one that don’t is not into the scripture every day Jesus

    gives me my answers to life questions by his word. He actually uses verses sometimes that correspond to the situation.. If I feel this is a gray area I would rather pray and follow then say I

    will seek forgiveness later. God is still talking to hearts or no one would be saved.

  • Sammy L.

    @ Hjordes

    A child's mind is infinitely malleable and hence a child can be made to believe absolutely anything. That is the 'brilliance' of early inculcation of religious doctrine before the child has a chance to properly reason on their own. So for you, your version of Christianity is absolutely and uncontestably true because your brain was wired so. Of course course the child inculcated into Islam/Judaism/Scientology/Wicca/Hinduism sees their faith as absolutely and uncontestably true also. It does not mean that it is ACTUALLY true…it merely means that you are made to believe so.

  • kathryn

    i agree, jesus ascended after the ressurection, then 2nd coming has not occured yet

    he doesnt walk the earth, and the bible states that, he is at the right hand of god,

    and he walks with me and talks with me, hmm thats a hymn in a hymnal!!!!!!!

    thank you so much for saying that sane people dont converse with him, jesus doesnt walk with me and talk with me at all, i have no idea what that means other than going for walk around the neigborhood, is jesus my walking partner no and people think im sill – hey youre the ones who insists he walkts and talks with me. get over it and resinsert the me with you, i have never heard the voice of god audibly inaudibly

    whatever. not sorry but this has to be a two way street. god expects from us fine, but i expect from him too as well and i dont care about cookie cutter sunday school asnwers, get real becuase those arent

    will god ever exist out of the heresay of someone else

    will god ever exist out of biblical times

    will god ever show up in the present

    its always what has done or will do

    WHAT ABOUT WHAT GOD IS DOING OR NOT DOING NOW!!!!!! I LIVE IN THE PRESENT

    NOT THE PAST OR PRESENT LET ALONE BIBLICAL TIMES

    another thing

    god is always there

    ok but why is he never here

    i am here not there

    hes not here

    christians blame me when something wrong happens in my life

    ok when i have 0 control over circumstances and yet god could have done soemthing and didnt

    and i am to blame for god not coming thru

    get over it people

    god can be praised in good times and not questioned in bad times

    its to acknowledge god in all things not just the good

    bottom line god needs to start speaking for himself

    and mute and silence these erroneous christians who are turning one time believers into atheists

    or keeping atheits atheists

    dont blame god

    ok fine but some chrsitians out there

    i am blaming you

    you killed my hope and my faith when you put me down using gods name

    stop associating gods name with your opinion

    to me dont take the lords name in vain

    what about someone misusing or attatching gods name to their opinion

    when god has nothing to do with it

    bottom line

    christians do more harm than good

    yeah they do

    and have in my life

    please dont abuse the recycle bin when using a comebakc

    i have never heard god talk

    becusae know it christians stepped right in spoke for him

    ahh

    when will god deal with these poeple

    • Claire

      Kathryn,

      If you would just read the bible you would know he lives! The anwers to all of lifes questions are in that book.

      I pray you will find him. HE is there for you.

      • Soulmentor

        ****The anwers to all of lifes questions are in that book. ****

        My evangelical type brother once said those very words to me. WHAT UTTER TRIPE!! I asked him, “What about all the other wisdom and knowledge we get from life and yes, even human resources (which, after all, is what the Bible is)?” He had no answer.

        When it came to me being gay and still being right with God or whatever that is, I had to find my own answers…… inside myself. I discovered God was there, NOT in the Bible.

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Kathryn: Are you … a young person?

  • Charlie

    I am struggling to stay close as well to Christ. I realized why I am not so close and that is because I don’t spend time in the Word or in prayer but I am having a hard time getting these disciplines back in my life.

  • OldJadednDoneThat

    What about Pat Robertson, and his sons and all those other people on TV who do similar? God tells them about the woman in Chicago that He's healing of a tapeworm, and the man in Rapid City with goiter. All these people have to do is just praise God and claim the healing… Are you saying this is representative of something less than sane? Or just that this is people operating shamefully lucrative businesses in the name of god, by presenting good ol' Elmer Gantry theater?

  • Sam Lance

    Well one thing you are soo right about alot of things donein the NAME of Christ or Chrstian are anything but Christ like. But, there is a vast differnce between Being Religous getting religion, beleiving in God or that there is a God, and truley having a RELATIONSHIP with that God who changes your life. And right there about 90% of those who think of themselves as christian are ready to kill me. Not saying any one person is better, but there is a diffence in reading a book and knowing the Author personally. Communicating with HIM, yes it is through the Holy Spirit but nontheless REAL. And He Speaks thru direction and His Word TheBible comes to life and directs my Daily steps.

    Oh yes those who are waiting for Him To Proove himself real and waiting forHim to Apear in Person, well it will happen soon but for them by then will betoo late.

    On that day you will be judged not by what YOU think, not by What YOUR CHURCH Taught, no You will be judged by THE word of God and how you obeyed it, believed it and lived it, not by your power but by his helping you. God does not command anything impossible, he provides the GRACE, and Power to Obey his WORD. IT is a growing experience and yes tomorrow you will see something you need to change that you never knew before, but now from then on by God Grace and Power He can keep you from doing that again.

    • Scott

      Sam, you might want to check your keyboard. There seems to be a problem with your Caps-Lock. :-)

  • dave

    Actually, I know some Christians who do claim to have seen and communicated with Jesus, very directly. And no, they are not raving lunatics. If you discount their claims as products of overactive imaginations, then must you not also reject the claims of many other visionaries down through the ages, starting with the Apostle Paul (whose claims were doubted by the original apostles, by the way)? I'm curious to know what you would say to such a Christian.

    • http://www.outsidepigeon.blogspot.com Helen Ann

      Thanks for saying this Dave…I have had back and forth conversation with The Spirit that was very real and very true/helpful to daily life. I have written out these conversations in my journal and referred back to them. Granted, these conversations are not out loud and there is no audible voice that I hear with my human ears, but I ‘hear’ words in a similar way that one hears their own thoughts – yet it is NOT just my own thinking. I know other people who have had even more tangible experiences. I don’t think it’s fair to discount all of these experiences as ravings of lunatics. Perhaps these instances are rare or uncommon, but certainly not impossible or fake.

  • yellowdog

    I was raised in church, but never fully understood or accepted it. However, in late high school, I had a religious experience and subsequent conversion. I remember it distinctly, very much like John’s description here:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-shore/i-a-rabid-anti-christian_b_551799.html

    When the religious experience occured, I was in the context of a Christiany (as most people in North America are). Therefore, when I felt God’s presence, I linked it to Christianity and became a devout Christian. A Jesus Freak, as it were. I went to Seminary and served as a Youth Minister in a church for a while. But my secret problem was that I never felt a connection to Jesus. Never could talk to him or walk with him or whatever. Neither in the physical sense nor in the metaphysical/metaphorical sense. But I could connect with God, and regularly felt what I believed to be God’s presence. And I did what every good Christian does when they’re struggling–prayed that God would help me believe and know Jesus more fully. But it never happened. And slowly, after much debate and wrestling and new understanding about the fallibility of the Bible, I began to lose my grip on Christianity (or maybe it lost it’s grip on me?).

    I haven’t been to church or practiced Christianity in 4 years. That life-change cost me my marriage of 10 years and many life-long Christian friends, and brought other hardships to my life. But the funny thing is I still feel connected to God (or at least “Some Big Something”) on a personal level. And the other funny thing is, so do many other non-Christians. To my knowledge, the great common denominators of all world religions are 1) some sort of code of moral ethics and 2) some sort of mysticism, i.e. personal connection to God. Talk to a devout person of any faith and he or she will (probably) discuss these two things on some level, even though the specific details and practices may be different from Christianity.

    Given the fallability of the Christian church and the Bible itself, I don’t consider either to be an authority of Truth regarding these two common denominators. But the existence of the common denominators I mentioned above do seem to point to Truth, from a purely logical standpoint: They appear to be universal and they appear to be extremely powerful/influential. So there must be some Truth behind them. However, there is a third common denominator, i.e. humanity itself. This left me wondering the proverbial, “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” Is Truth something external that was created by God and existed long before humanity, something that only a holy scripture can teach us about, or that only God can reveal? Or is Truth something that we humans create through some evolutionary process that has been ingrained so much that it is universal or instinctual, which gives it the effect of being supernatural? I haven’t been able to answer this question, nor has anyone I know, if they honestly attempt to answer it. What generally happens is people filter it through their belief system so that their answer mirrors their religion (regardless of what that religion may be). I can’t do that and remain truthful to myself, so I have chosen to be agnostic. Even so, I’m still basking in the presence of the Great Some Big Something.

    • Mary G

      Huh…. I could write this almost verbatim, just swapping out “Christian” for “Baha’i”. I’ve had the same experience, only without being a youth minister or going to seminary. Interesting….

  • http://lisainbc.blogspot.com Lisa Salazar

    “When speaking about matters of faith, we Christians use…the only language available to us. But using language to capture the reality of God is like trying to use numbered children’s blocks to teach quantum physics. It’s simply insufficient for the job.”

    I’ve added this to my favorite quotes on Facebook.

    It reminds me of a comment I once made to a friend who wanted to know how his life would be different if he was “born again.” I listed a few things but then realized my words were failing me because it was impossible to convey the true experience. I stopped listing “churchiness” and admitted to him I couldn’t tell him because it was akin to trying to describe to a baby still in the womb a sunset, the taste of an orange, the scent of a rose, the sound of a baby’s laughter, the feel of silk. All I could tell him is that after the ‘rebirth,’ one cannot imagine going back. Perhaps it was over simplification on my part, but it was all I could say.

  • http://theporpoisedrivenlife.wordpress.com Mike

    If Christians want to be more like Jesus they need to start with the basics like wearing Sandals to Church, because that’s what Jesus wears.

    • Matthew Tweedell

      How would you know? I was actually, just last week or so, telling a friend about how Jesus wears Nikes. (But, actually, I’m sure He wears sandals on occasion as well.)

  • kathryn

    Hjordes what makes you think you walk and talk with Jesus

    I personally don’t believe you nor take your word for it

    Johns article is right

    People like you in doing so confuse alot of people

    Why would he walk with you but not so many others

    The problem isn’t Jesus it’s people like you

    who make others feel less of a person when in reality

    what you claim to be going on isnt going on at all


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