Two things continue to amaze me about Christ and Christianity. One is the idea that there is only one right relationship with Christ that entitles one to be called a Christian. The other is the enormous variety of relationships Jesus had with those he encountered. Some were healed and sent on their with instructions to tell no one. Some were healed and sent on their way with instructions to tell everyone what God had done for them. Some were called to follow as disciples and some were told not to. Some were intimate friends and others informal acquaintances. A few were enthusiastic and apparently spontaneous followers while others were most reluctant.
The continuity that binds them all together is the radical hospitality with which Jesus engaged each according to their particular needs and circumstances. They were insane maniacs, blind, physically crippled, powerful, wealthy, poor, educated, ignorant, Jews, gentiles, Roman soldiers, anti-Roman zealots, country bumpkins, city elite, male, female, free and slave. There was something about their encounters with Jesus that inspired them to enter into a trusting relationship with him, but each in a unique way that was appropriate for them in a fashion determined only between themselves and Christ.
Maybe we have it backwards. It’s not the character of our relationship with Christ that counts, but Christ’s relationship with us. That can make it a bit awkward because it strips us of our ability to judge, and we so love to judge. There is only one requirement, and that is to have some minimum degree of willingness to accept the radical hospitality that Jesus offers. But even that is not always open to our discernment. The rich young man whom Jesus loved, but who went sadly away because he would not give up his wealth, did he return another day? I wonder if far too often we do not give God enough credit for knowing how and having the ability to handle the job of salvation without the benefit of our critical advice and assistance.
I think that what Jesus said to Peter at the end of John’s gospel was very telling. “Pete, don’t worry about that other disciple. You tend my sheep. What I have in mind for him is none of your business.” What Jesus said to Peter should be understood to be what Jesus says to each one of us, and what we need to understand about others.