Well, to begin with, I fully believe people are born for relationship. We’re just made that way. Wired. Instinctive. Untaught. Completed. Complimented. Fully formed. Fully alive. Even introverts crave relationship. Not in bulk, certainly (*shudder*), but maybe one or two deeply personal, intimate connections.
On some level, all of us desire this personal bond with one another; somewhere we can feel free to lower our guard and let a select few see us for who we truly are—warts and all—and hang around anyway. Someone to wade hip-deep into our crap, maybe even grab a shovel and start digging.
What too many Christians fail to realize, or fail to fully embrace, is that when we cross over the line of faith and begin a relationship with the living Christ, we enter into a personal connection with Him as well. You know, the One who knows all of our stuff already, and wants to wade in and grab a shovel.
Yet even this is not enough.
…I’ll let that sink in for a second. (Woah! WHAT did he just say??!!)
Yup. I said it. Even when we cross over the line of faith and enter into a personal relationship with the Son of the Living God, it’s not enough.
That shouldn’t be a surprise. Even Jesus knew Jesus wasn’t enough. He was constantly surrounded by hundreds, yet he personally chose twelve to call “friends” (John 15:15), and even went further to select three as an intimate, inner circle.
Confidantes! Besties! (Or, whatever they called them back in Biblical times.)
I’ll even go one further. Even God knew that GOD wasn’t enough!
In the garden, God says, “It is not good for man to be alone”; this despite the fact that Adam was walking with God. Adam wasn’t “alone”, and yet, in the strictest sense, he was. God knew Adam needed relationship with other people. So he created Eve. And he created them with the capacity to make and raise a family to populate the earth.
Part of the reason Christianity too often doesn’t work in the way it should is that we have created a non-biblical, incomplete re-creation of Christianity. God has no obligation to bless your form of Christianity. The purpose of Christianity is not just to save us from sin. The purpose of Christianity is not just a “get out of Hell free” card. The purpose of Christianity is not even just to make disciples.
The purpose of following Christ—being a Christ-ian—is to give you an abiding, fulfilled life—for now, and for eternity. To do that, you need relationship. You need Christ, certainly, but you also need other believers, and even further, you need interaction with the world around you. Not immersion necessarily, but definitely inclusion. You need tangible love (1Corinthians 13), and the world needs yours. The real battle in the church is not over what you know, what you can be, or what you should or shouldn’t be doing. The real battle is within your ability to love and be loved. UN. CON. DITIONALLY!
The single most important test in which you can gauge the success of a church congregation is by the depths of their relationships with one another, AND with the surrounding community.
How? It can be both the easiest and most difficult thing you can do…and I’ll touch on that tomorrow.