The “Just Me and Jesus” Myth

Jesus your pal

All I need to worry about is “Me and Jesus,” right? Pop-Christianity has perpetuated this overly-simplistic dogma. But does it do more harm than good? I think yes.

The main reason I think it does more harm than good is that it is almost always used in contrast to your relationships with other people. In other words, yes, loving your friends or your spouse or your enemy is important. But, it’s not as important as loving Jesus.

We say “your relationship with God comes first. Everyone else is second.”

And while in a certain sense this is true, in the nuanced challenge of living out one’s faith in a physical world, it rings hollow. It presents a false dichotomy, implying that it is even possible to love Jesus apart from loving others. One cannot.

“Loving Jesus” (i.e. Loving God) is not some intangible, purely spiritual or intellectual assent of faith. It’s not something that can happen apart from your relationships with other people. Rather, it is all wrapped up together.

That’s why for married couples the primary, tangible way you “love Jesus” is by loving your spouse. You love Jesus through your spouse. If you do not love your spouse, you do not love Jesus. If you do not love your friends, you do not love Jesus. If you do not love your enemies, you do not love Jesus. If you want to love God, you must love Him through others. There is no getting around it.

In this sense, loving others comes first – not second. Not because they are the primary object of our Love, but because they are the conduit for it.

So being a Christian is never “just me and Jesus.” It’s always “me and Jesus – and everyone else.” We’re all in this thing together.

“Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’

Then the righteous will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’ And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’

Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.’

Then they will answer and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?’ He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’ And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” [Matthew 25]

11 comments Add comment

Marshall March 29, 2011 at 12:33 pm

It’s like our Savior said: What is the greatest command? He gave 2 which he presented as the same:
Love God with all your hear & Love your neighbor as yourself.

Tina March 29, 2011 at 2:46 pm

We are all one: the Body of Christ, the Communion of Saints. That includes oneness with the Trinity. There is no separation and in order to love any member of the Trinity, one must love all members of the Body. :)

Nicholas April 5, 2011 at 3:42 am

It’s sort of like separation of church and state. Love for Jesus and our peers cannot and should not be separated. The same goes for Catholicism and our great country, America. Great post, Matthew! Great to see other Catholics learning from you about our faith!

Suzin April 10, 2011 at 8:30 pm

I loved your post! A protestant asked me to explain based on your post how Catholics justify monks and nuns (cloistered) since they, in his opinion, are loving God but not loving their neighbour unless it is someone in their cloistered community. Since they are not making disciples of people unknown to them he believes they are living their lives in error. What are your thoughts?

Matthew Warner April 11, 2011 at 12:03 am

Suzin – that’s an excellent question! There is much to be said on this point, but here are a few of my initial thoughts.

First, they do, as you mention, live in cloistered communities. So they are deeply immersed in service to one another. In fact, because they are often very self-sufficient communities, their dependence upon one another is all the more apparent and immediate for them than it is for us in the non-cloistered world.

Second, they very often do still serve the outside world in the things they make or produce that are used to help support their communities.

Third, and perhaps most importantly, because they have given up many of the other things in the world, they are every bit more dedicated to prayer. They spend far more time praying for us, each other and the world – including “people unknown to them” – than the rest of us do. Anyone who believes in the power of prayer would surely not discount the gigantic contribution these cloistered communities make here.

Fourth, their cloistering and example to us is actually a recognition and embracing of their place in The Body – not a rejection of it. We are many parts, but all one Body. We as one Body serve others together. Just as it is never “just me and Jesus.” It’s also never “just me and others.” It’s all of us together with others – and Jesus of course. What I mean is that we all play different roles in how we serve the “other.” It’s not only those on the front lines that get the credit for the work being done. For every person on the front line, there are many more “behind the scenes” that support them and make their work possible. One of the primary ways we support others is through prayer. Cloistered communities play that role in a profound, powerful and extremely significant way in the Church.

Finally, their rejection of the world and total and complete dedication to God in this unique way – while not specifically for everyone – is a visible and real reminder to all of us of what we are called to. Their very cloistering and way of life lifts us up and makes disciples of us. And it does so in a way far more effectively and powerfully than most of us do – especially those who bother about accusing them of “living their lives in error.”

Ashley April 14, 2011 at 12:25 pm

Great post! My only question is this… is it wrong for me to like the “Buddy Jesus” statue?

Miguel Aaron Michel Lopez April 20, 2012 at 6:11 pm

I love that you spoke on it like so. I admire the simplicity yet, honest break-down of the Good Book´s concept that people do try and distort. This truly was worth a look-see. I thank you, Mr. Matthew Warner as well.

Maria Teresita Villa July 5, 2013 at 7:38 am

Yes, I am my brother’s keeper…

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