I followed up that post with two others, further clarifying why we are so picky about allowable beliefs and allowable behaviors. Then the world intruded with lots of distractive events, and I never got around to writing about our essential relationships.
The biggest, most focused of those relationships is, of course, our relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Jesus defines verticality between the point on which we stand and God. The more closely we match his stance, the more we are in him and he is in us, the more evenly balanced we are. This not only means we are in less danger of falling, but able to reach higher and perceive God more clearly, and thus become freer, more fulfilled. So anything that draws us away from Jesus, or which says that there might be other saviors, other lords, other ways, is anathema to us. We don’t seek to force you to follow Jesus, but we will not be forced to include other things in our lives that compete with him. As Dion sang long ago,
I love my children and I love my wife,This primary relationship with God in Christ needs to be reflected in our relationships with other people. How we act in a Christlike manner toward each other is reflected in our behaviors (which I wrote about last time), so I won’t go into it in detail here. Still, it needs to be said that you cannot love God unless you love your brother, as the New Testament frequently points out. This is an article of faith with us, one which we frequently struggle with -- because people are annoying (and we, being people, are included in that statement).
But he is the center of my life.
There is another relationship which is frequently ill-understood, and not just by non-Christians. Christians are supposed to relate to each other in a special set of relationships we call Church. You really can’t do Christianity well without being a part of the Church. A solitary Christian is an oxymoron.
But what about the hermits? you ask. Even St. Antony, the great desert hermit, said, “Your life and your death are with your neighbor.” We need each other to sustain us in our way with Christ. Church is not an option. Consider also how many stories of hermits are stories of people seeking the hermits out. The solitaries became solitary in order to focus on God, but when God came to their cell door in the form of a troubled soul, they showed him hospitality and helped him as they could. Having been a pastor, I know how much of my ministry was spent running after people for one thing or another. The advantage to the seeker of the hermit is that he is findable; he isn’t running after anybody, so if you need somebody to help you relate to God, you know where he can be found.
As for the rest of us, who do not have a vocation to hermitude, or who are not housebound for other reasons, we are warned in the NT not to neglect the assembling of ourselves together. Church is not to be a club for religious people; certainly, it is not to be a members-only club where “membership has privileges.” Church is where we find companions for the journey we are on, our pilgrimage from earth to heaven. Christianity is more than Me and Jesus. Christianity is Me and You and All of us and Jesus. It is congregational worship and participating in various ministries of the Church. It is teaching the young and the outsider how to follow Jesus, how to keep one’s balance in an out-of-balance world.
Christianity is also Me and You and Jesus. In addition to participation in the larger group, we experience Christ and are helped on our journey in smaller groupings. A special bond with a spiritual friend or a small group is a form of “watching over each other in love,” which is important.
Anything that interferes with any of these relationships risks knocking us off the narrow point on which we stand, which is why we resist it so fiercely.