At GBC we call people to make 4 commitments to help them grow in their relationship with Jesus: Worship, Relationships, Learning, and Mission. Last week I wrote about what we mean when we call people to commit to worship (Read that here). This week I’d like to explain a little more in depth about why the relationships we have with other believers are so important in nurturing our faith.
At a foundational level, relationships are important because God is a relationship. One God in three persons, Father, Son, and Spirit. Do we understand how that works out? No, not really, but we see it to be true in Scripture. Since the Bible also tells us that we are created in His image, then we are relational beings too. That means that we do not live as individuals, especially not when we come into a relationship with Jesus. We become a part of the body of Christ. So it stands to reason that because we don’t exist in spiritual isolation we can’t expect to grow and flourish in spiritual isolation.
This truth was brought home to be in a recent conversation with a friend who has been greatly helped and healed by their time with Alcoholics Anonymous. We were talking about how important relationships are to spiritual growth and my friend said, “It’s like the program (AA), you’ll be more successful if you begin to ‘be a part of…’”. I asked for clarification as to what that phrase “a part of” meant. “There are people who go to meetings and stay on the fringe. They share very little. They don’t take a role in the meeting. They don’t serve the group in any way. They can be at every meeting, but unless they take a step to become ‘a part of’ they often lose their sobriety.”
The same is true of our spiritual lives. To grow and mature we have to become a part of the larger whole. That means we need some relationships with others where we can be honest about who we are and they can be honest with us about what they see in our lives. Over time these relationships grow into places where we are free from judgments of our brokenness, while being loved and accepted as fellow travellers on the spiritual journey. The world around us tells us that our spiritual life is just between us and God; it’s something very private. But the opposite is actually the case. People who keep their spiritual life just between them and God often wander down the wrong path, either toward delusion or pride and arrogance. Living honestly with others helps us see things more clearly. It opens our eyes to the areas where God may be stretching us. It gives us someone real and tangible who can model the love and forgiveness of God as well as the honesty that we need to deal with our deeply hidden, cherished, and protected idols.
This doesn’t mean we are an open book about everything to everyone. At our church we ask members to “commit to seeking 1-3 relationships within our body where you can be open and honest in regards to your own spiritual journey.” These are people that you feel safe with, loved by, and that you trust. This takes time to develop and there are some struggles along the way, but we deeply believe that it is a vital commitment to make if we are to grow to be more like Jesus.
So what about you? Do you long for 1 or 2 people that could love you as you are and call you to grow. Maybe that very feeling within you is God stirring you toward a deeper level of relationships. Don’t expect it to happen overnight, but also don’t sit back and wait for it to come to you. Take some steps this week to initiate contact with someone that you feel could play this role in your life, and you in theirs. Give it time and space and see what happens. It’s all a part of the journey.