Hebrews 5:7 “In the days of His flesh, He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His piety.” Something so key in the kind of relationship God desires from man is reflected in this verse we read here. It appears this verse is recounting back to when Jesus was being crucified, when before his death, he let out a loud cry. Now the interesting thing to think about here is why God heard Jesus’s loud crying. It was not because of the sentimentality that was expressed, but it was because of His piety.
In the Greek, the word for piety according to blueletterbible.org is eulabeia. Now full disclosure, there were two other definitions of this word, which stated it could mean caution or anxiety. Now perhaps one of those other definitions could make sense for this verse, but what would appear to make most sense is the second definition that was provided which stated it means reverence, and particularly reverence to God. For those who don’t know what reverence means, it essentially means respect. If you look at the next verse after this one, it talks about obedience to God and suffering, which would seem more to correlate with the meaning of the word piety in this verse being reverence to God, rather than meaning caution or anxiety.
So in following this conclusion, I suggest to you that it’s clear through Scripture, that the kind of relationship God desires from mankind is not one mainly of expressed sentimentality, but one of displayed reverence. Christianity is often culturally defined today as a “personal relationship with Jesus Christ”. The “Personal Relationship” theory essentially argues that God primarily desires one’s deepest emotions and feelings, and in one giving these things to God, God takes one on a journey of self-growth and self-fulfillment of their deepest desires. But we have to ask the question, is this kind of relationship the kind that God desires and displays with people in Scripture? Well, we just looked at that verse in Hebrews that showed that God had regard for Jesus because of His reverence for Him, and not because of the displayed emotion he let out in that moment. And this theme of reverence is found very often throughout Scripture. Consider how Jesus was often referred as by people and the Disciples in these verses.
Matthew 8:19 “Then a scribe came and said to Him, “Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go.”
Matthew 12:38 “[The Desire for Signs] Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to Him, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.”
Matthew 19:16 “[The Rich Young Ruler] And someone came to Him and said, “Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may obtain eternal life?”
Matthews 23:8 “But do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers.”
Thus one aspect of the kind of relationship Jesus (and thus consequently God) desired and displayed with men, was that of a spiritual guide showing us the way of Truth, and how to live in that Truth for the glory of God. Jesus is often also referred to as Master throughout Scripture. Read the following verses carefully.
Matthew 10:24 “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master.”
Luke 5:5 “Simon answered and said, “Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing, but I will do as You say and let down the nets.”
Luke 8:24 “They came to Jesus and woke Him up, saying, “Master, Master, we are perishing!” And He got up and rebuked the wind and the surging waves, and they stopped, and it became calm.”
Luke 17:13 “and they raised their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”
Now people at times look at the term master in a negative connotation, but the word in the Greek for master is epistates, which essentially means superintendent or overseer. So by choosing to be referred to as master, and in the prior verses we looked at as teacher, it’s evident the kind of relationship Jesus desired from mankind was that of one to be highly revered as a leader and a spiritual guide of Truth. Now we’ve considered how Jesus was acknowledged by people, not in a super sentimental buddy buddy kind of way, but referred to in a reverential way through the terms teacher and master. Let’s also consider the purpose of the interactions.
When Jesus interacted with the disciples, was he at any point wanting to know what their emotions were? Did He desire to know how they felt inside or what they desired for their own fulfillment in the future? To my knowledge in Scripture, that’s generally not the case. Now this isn’t to suggest Jesus was cold hearted, because he expressed sentimental emotions occasionally, such as when he wept in John 11. But these and other occasions are of secondary focus, and what was the primary focus in Jesus’s interactions with people were not based on necessarily desiring to hear their expressed sentiments, but more so to teach them the way of the Truth that is authentic in living for God. Many times the people communicated with Jesus they were always asking Him questions about that. So the main purpose of all interactions were focused on glorifying God, and not based on the type of emotionality that cultural Christianity defines today as “intimacy”.
One thing I don’t want to be misunderstood, I’m not suggesting at all that there is no closeness with God. What I’m suggesting to you is that the closeness God desires of us is not one primarily based in sentimentality as the “Personal Relationship” theology argues, but one based in reverential obedience. Consider this statement made by Jesus to the disciples about what love to Him is. Jesus states in John 14:15, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments”. So in this verse, obedience to Jesus, and thus God, is the kind of love that God wants from man. Love is not a feeling as many confuse it to be, but as the Greek term agape reflects its exhibiting selfless goodwill. The kind of love God gives us is that of selfless goodwill as well, number one example of which was Jesus dying on the cross for us.
Now are there instances that God wants to hear personal things of us, sure. He wants to hear our requests in times of distress as Philippians 4:6-7 illustrates. He also wants us to consistently communicate to him as 1 Thessalonians 5:17 states. But keep in mind also, these were instructions that Paul gave as the Word from God which is expected to be obeyed, and thus goes back to the reverential obedience as being the primary aspect of the relationship between man and God. The selfless goodwill exhibited through action in consistently making an effort to follow the instructions of the Word is what God desires and is pleased with.
This concept of God wanting to have a primarily sentimental-based relationship with us for the main purpose of our own personal growth and self-fulfillment seems to not be in correlation with Scripture. It frankly overly humanizes Him to our level of inaccuracy in understanding how relationships work. As I’ve stated in a previous post, while the instructions of the Word secondarily can cause growth in a person by the person changing their behavior in line with those instructions, and secondarily causes some fulfillment in life by the ease of stress that can occur when following God’s instructions, the primary purpose is for His glory and the advancing of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As we discussed earlier, reverential obedience pleases God, which is the selfless goodwill (love) we give to Him in our side of the relationship, while the selfless goodwill (love) He has given us on His side of the relationship is our hope in a future eternal reward, and the knowledge and information we need to be content in the trials of this world that we live in until then.
This appears to be the more accurately Scriptural kind of relationship God desires and displayed with men. I hope you will seriously consider this alternative understanding by taking off the lens of the “Personal Relationship” theory you may have been taught, and really observing from an unbiased perspective what the text states and illustrates as the kind of relationship God desires of man. Peace to all those who are in Christ.