Chapter Six: Jesus Christ 

Part 9: The Personal Relation of a Christian to Jesus Christ

(VI.9, p. 305). Part 9 probes the concrete life of the Christian believer. The Christian is always in the process of becoming a Christian, Rahner says, a process which takes place not primarily by intellectual reflection but by responding to God's invitation (A). The Christian's relation to Jesus Christ is identical with his or her life-work and destiny, i.e., the way one accepts God's offer of life and lives it freely and responsibly (B). In the way we respond to one another, we express our relation to God's Word and to the Father himself (C). God intends us to love, not in the abstract, but in the concrete. When we love one another, we express what God wants, namely, love of God (D). When we made choices, when we commit ourselves to this or that, we are committing ourselves to a life-direction, committing ourselves to the fate which we hope God will affirm at the moment of our death (E).

A. The Need for an "Existentiell" Christology (VI.9.A, p. 305). “A person is always a Christian in order to become one,” says Rahner. He means that the Christianity we know, even in our baptism as children, and also in the kind of “social Christianity” we experience in family and community, is a Christianity we still need to appropriate as our own throughout our entire lives. This is the meaning of “existentiell.” When we appropriate the faith as our own, we realize it, we make it real, we bring it to actualization, and it becomes “existentiell.”

An existentiell Christology is not, however, a Christology that necessarily comes to full reflection and expression. Even an anonymous Christian can have an existentiell (i.e., a real, deeply held, and fully-embodied) Christology insofar as that person obeys an orientation in grace toward God. An existentiell Christology is an expression of Christian existence, an entrusting of oneself to the development of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

B. Individual, Concrete Relationship to Jesus Christ (VI.9.B, p. 307). In each individual, even in those who do not know Jesus Christ, there is at least a possible relationship to him. This relationship is identical with each person’s life work and destiny. Whenever an individual entrusts him or herself to God, a relationship develops. In this relationship, the individual does not entrust an abstract human nature, but rather his or her own self. This is the self for which each human being is responsible. For the non-Christian, the relationship to Jesus Christ will not be personal and intimate. But the God to whom human beings entrust themselves is the very one who has first turned to them concretely in Jesus Christ.

C. A Theo-Logical Reflection (VI.9.C, p. 308). Viewed from the standpoint of a theology from above, Jesus Christ is the icon of the Father. When we treat another person with kindness, we are expressing our relation to Jesus Christ and thus to the Father. From the standpoint of a theology from below, our relationship to Jesus makes our every interaction with another person salvific. Jesus Christ is not only the eternal Logos, but also the “first fulfillment” of humanity. He was the first to fulfill the promise which life with God holds for every person.

D. The Unity Between the Love of God and Concrete Love of Nature (VI.9.D, p. 309). Love for our neighbor is the actualization of Christian existence. In love of neighbor, we express our acceptance of God as the neighbor’s ground and the neighbor’s ultimately mysterious partner. Love wants to be faithful, and love in the human being actualizes a spiritual existence. This is the existence that is taken up into eternal life by means of one’s death. Death is thus a fulfillment, not a conclusion. When we love our neighbor, we are loving in the way God deserves to be loved, namely, loving in the concrete.

E. The Risk of Encounter (VI.9.E, p. 310). One has to take a risk in order to encounter Jesus personally. This is the risk of finding whether, when he or she speaks the name of Jesus, the person means only an abstract idea of an infinite God. The Christian life is not about satisfying universal norms, but rather about discipleship and participation. These initiate us into Jesus’ death and resurrection.

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