By Jonathan Foster
“We’re all in this together alone.” –Lily Tomlin
Field trips these days are amazing. The school our 8th grader attends is taking a trip to Catalina Island off of the Southern California coast (we live in Phoenix, AZ). Our fourth grader last year took an overnight trip to the Grand Canyon (well thats at least in our state). We have friends who have taken school trips to Europe.
When I was a kid we were lucky to go across town to the zoo! Well, the size and length of the trips might change, but one thing never changes: the buddy system. You remember. It’s simple: Don’t go anywhere without your buddy. To the restroom, to the hotel room, to the bus, wherever you go… go with, and keep track of, your buddy.
The Bible infers a buddy system, as well. It’s called community. You can follow “the rules,” give the money, memorize the verses and have perfect church attendance but if you miss the community part — the relationship part — you miss everything.
Why? Because God is community. (“Perichoresis” is the theological term. Check it out here at Wikipedia.) Which among many other things means that God connects to me not in rules or religion but in relationship.
A relationship implies several things dialogue, passion, interest, love, disappointment, listening That’s what God longs to have with me. Is that your perspective of God?
Even in Old Testament times, God desired something stronger than following the rules. Check out Hosea 6:6 in a couple different versions.
But it’s not just about the vertical relationship. God is often best understood in horizontal relationship, relationship with others. (The Bible has a lot to say here. Check out John 13:14, Romans 12:10, Romans 15:7, 3 John 1:8, Hebrews 10:25, to name a few.)
Think about your relationships — friends, family, marriage, children, etc. — this is where Ive really noticed God working in my life. Not only the times when Im loved, encouraged and motivated but also the times when Im challenged and convicted by them (Proverbs 27:17). Author Dan Allendar says, “A dear friend is one who ‘reads’ us and asks good, hard questions inviting us to dig deeper, see the horizon, and press on to answer the question, ‘So what?'”
Ah, but one last thing about community. I experience God in them when they love and when they challenge me. But I also experience God when they mess up when they say the wrong thing when they do the completely wrong thing. C.S. Lewis said, “Pain is Gods megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” Ive learned first hand theres no kind of pain like the pain of a close friendship gone bad and yet thats where Ive learned about myself and my relationship with God the most. In the midst of that kind of evil I have had to learn to ask myself, Why does this hurt so bad? Who have I been putting my trust in? Is my reaction a reflection of my perspective of God? Is He really bigger than this?
What about you? What have you learned by living in community? What are you experiencing by being a part of Gods “buddy system”? Are you trying to relate to God through the “rules” or through The Relationship?
Jonathan is married and has three children. He blogs at www.theproblemwithreligion.com and lives in Phoenix, AZ. He is seriously considering becoming an Arizona Cardinals fan but would like to wait and see what happens next year.