Communal Relationship With God

“When Jesus came to earth as a baby,
He depended on human love –
That of Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds.
When Jesus preached and healed,
He depended on human love –
The alms given by those who heard Him.
I too depend on human love.
The kindness of others sustains my soul.
The gifts of others sustain my body.
Every person depends on others’ love.
Let no one be ashamed of their needs.
To depend on others is to imitate Christ.”[1]

Somewhere along the long road of Church history a destructive concept was developed: that our relationship with God is personal, meaning individual. Before I begin my rant I’d like to clarify that I do believe that God is personal and gets personal with us but He is not my own personal God, He’s our God. In other words He knows me personally but my relationship with Him is enacted communally.

Somewhere along the journey the pendulum was too far to one side, people experienced God only through their ministers and within the confines of the church walls. Salvation was found solely in the church and God was a distant untouchable who could only be approached by somewhat less untouchable mediators. But then something changed all that. The pendulum swung. It was probably a slow process that got us to where we are now in American evangelicalism (I realize that only represents a small percentage of the worlds Christians but we’re here so let’s talk about it) but things are defiantly different. Now church has become incidental to Salvation, a sort of side note in the story of God’s master plan. My salvation is between me and God, my faith is between me and God, my ritual (though this has also become a side note, we’ll talk about that in a later post) is between me and God. Everyone, no matter that we might all be doing the same thing is doing their own thing. I’m praying, just me and God, and they’re praying just them and God. The pendulum has swung too far.

What we’ve forgotten is that we are utterly dependant and not just on God. It’s arrogant to suggest that you’re only dependant on God, you have to be blind to ay that. You’d have to be blind not to see how far you’ve gotten because of other people. It was people who helped develop you faith. It was people who taught you the most basic things. You depend on people for everything from what and how much you can eat, to your education, to the furniture you’re sitting on now. Everything you have and everything you do is communal. Nothing you do is just for you it all effects everyone. We’re in this together; your relationship with God isn’t just between you and God I’m in the mix too. Salvation is found within community, and we’ve even given that community a name, we call it “church.” No one is saved apart from it, that’s just silly. God doesn’t want to save you… He wants to save us. This doesn’t mean that you have to pay some pastor or bishop in order to get your sins forgiven. All it means is that you stop kidding yourself and realize that it’s been about community all along. You’re never doing your own thing. When you pray, sing our, preach, confess, cry, or even breath a breath of fresh air and thank God for it you’re not doing your own thing. You are entering into community with a whole slew of people who are doing or have ever done what you are doing. And it’s not just people who are alive. You enter into community with people who’ve come before you and are long since past. Every time you read the bible you are being ministered to by a dead person. Someone who’s no longer here wrote that down, someone who’s no longer hear sacrificed to make sure that you would be able to read that book someday in the future. The Church is a people who are in it together, people who don’t kid themselves by thinking that they’re in it alone or that anything they do is “personal.” Community is about awakening to a truth that’s always been there, we’re dependant on each other. Weather it’s for the food on your table or for your faith in God, community realizes that we are dependant on each other. The resurrection of Christ means new life for us… together.

[1] This poem is entitled “Being Dependant” from Celtic Praise (Carlisle UK, Hunt & Thorpe 1998) 29.