Being Human, Being Together
Yesterday, my daughter asked me if someone could be a Christian without being part of a church. She’s eight. I told her it was possible, but unlikely that he/she would stay a Christian for long. Her natural follow up: Why?
Because Christ built the church, loved the church, and died for her. And He made us to have faith together, not alone.
Her thoughts were for a school friend who she knows attends our church only on Wednesday nights and whose parents don’t seem to have faith. I reminded her that God knows about her friend and that she’s going to be okay.
As our chat ended, I thought about how hard it is to neglect being part of the church when you remember who God is. Father, Son, Holy Spirit.
- The Father is the Father because of His relationship with the Son and Spirit. The same goes for the Son and the Spirit.
- They are free–not from each other but for each other.
- They are not subordinate to one another, but freely submit to one another in love.
- They are love by nature.
To be made in God’s image, as Genesis 1 says, means that we are made for relationship. We could go even further to say that those who lack significant relationships with others become less than human, less than what God intended.
Colin Gunton says that a person is defined in terms of relationships with other people, while an individual is defined in terms of separation from other individuals. Good grief that’s so true.
Being human means being together. Not like shopping in the same store while avoiding eye contact. Not like attending a Sunday morning service a few times a month and quickly skating out before meeting people. Like what could happen in a small group. I say could because we all know churches and groups that fail to look much like the relationship God has with Himself.
It’s with this in mind that I think a small group can be valuable. I don’t know about you, but I want to be all that God created me to be. And I can’t become that person as an individual.
The question becomes, “How might a small group do this?” Here are my suggestion, based on the understanding of the Trinity above.
- I begin to identify myself by my relationships. I am friend, father, husband before I am pastor.
- I begin to view my freedom as something that is for others. As Paul said, be slaves to one another humbly in love (Gal. 5:13).
- I begin to honestly submit to others–with their preferences, their quirks, their desires–rather than placing myself first.
- I begin to both give and receive love–here defined as doing what is best for one another in accordance with Scripture.
We could list more. In time, we become more fully human as we are in deeper relationship with one another. It is why the friendships that are formed as we meet consistently matter just as much as the content we cover. It is why we make time for a small group. It is why we challenge small group leaders to put relationships first.