Addendum to “Are We the Church?”

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A little clarification…

These are the final paragraphs of my September 1st post:

He [God] demands authentic love and relationship with Him—and with others.

Authentic love and relationship means being honest about our differences, the disagreements. Authenticity is the admission of our own triggers; our shortcomings; our insecurities. Authentic love and relationship means sharing our stories. Our full stories. Confessing the reality of who we really are—the bits we like and the bits we loathe—to God and to others is part of how we grow in relationship. “As soon as we take control of our relationship with God, we begin to isolate ourselves from the other cells and become a cancerous, destructive presence in the body.”

Somewhere in there, is the difference between an embarrassing choral performance and a creative and nurturing interplay of our spiritual gifts. The manifestation of this difference in our relationships is my prayer.”

I realize I may have afforded too much room for inference between Mulholland’s quote, authentic love/relationship and how that relates to the Church. To begin, the previous paragraphs in yesterday’s post, I hope, establish the necessity of being in community with other Christians—and how Christian communities, like any other communities, can be inhospitable. Inhospitable is something the Church should never be, yet it is, and we are called to be in community. We are also called to be in relationship with God and I would hope it is evident that being in relationship with God is pivotal to our existence as Christians.

With that established, I believe our relationship with God affects our relationships with others. Authentic relationship with God should change us. We cannot help but be changed when we allow God to work. This means admitting you do not have things figured out, it means shutting up for a change in order to hear what He is saying. It means coming to God in an attitude of simply wanting to be in His presence. If we are being real and not making it about us but about God, noting Jesus’ behavior and getting to know the nature of God, changes everything. However, don’t be so quick to think your relationship with God is something so deeply individual that it is unaffected by those around you.

Our relationships with others affect our relationship with God. When those with whom we are in relationship are pursuing God, and able to discern their humanity from God’s divinity, those relationships can become the most edifying and the most growing. Why? I think about it like I think about peer editing. When I was on staff with Canyon Voices Literary Magazine, we edited dozens of pieces. Being editors was not about taking another’s piece and making it walk and talk like our own work. The goal is always about encouraging the best possible version of the piece to come out and play without tampering with the style and voice of the original author. Healthy relationships do not fear editing because all those involved desire the best version of us. Those relationships desire health and wholeness for us and will point out the things about us that keep us in our un-health.

Unfortunately, it works the other way as well. We cannot be, as Mulholland says, “conformed to the image of Christ for the sake of others” without others. Our relationships with others speak into our spiritual journey for better and for worse. Unhealthy relationships encourage us to remain in our brokenness and do not become the bolstering force needed to pursue our relationship with God. Mulholland beautifully enumerates ways in which this comes to fruition in our lives—the good and the bad.

In regard to Mulholland’s statement, “As soon as we take control of our relationship with God, we begin to isolate ourselves from the other cells and become a cancerous, destructive presence in the body,” there are a number of things insinuated here especially in light of everything I have addressed so far. Our relationship with God should move us toward other members of the Church. It should move us toward restoration of relationship and extending grace to others. Our relationship with God will never call us to wash our hands of people or to spew meanness of any kind. Mulholland uses the term, “binding together” in love and support as we try to be who God has called us to be, to characterize the interaction of corporate and individual spirituality. Individual relationship with God moves us to be in community and worship in community nurtures the individual being.

When we control our relationship with others, or with God, it affects everything else. We become cancerous and destructive, resembling as many different forms of cancer and destruction as there are people. For example, when we are dishonest, obstinate, selfish, prideful, extremely pious, insensitive, unwilling to be vulnerable ect. These are ways of distancing self from God and others thereby being inauthentic and manipulating the relationship to suit our level of comfort. When we remain comfortable we do not grow. We become dead weight, an impediment on the journey to individual and corporate spiritual formation.

Invitation to a Journey is really excellent. I have merely provided some tugged-on-my-heart-snip-its. His book is a must-read if you are a Christian, a leader, a church-goer, a human.

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