Monday, August 4, 2008

What does it all mean?

What does it mean to be a person? Do we exist when we are not in relationship with other people? What does it mean to be a Christian? What does it mean to be in a relationship with Jesus? What does it mean?

In the past three weeks I've had three conversations that have revolved around those questions and I cannot say that I have an answer. The truth is that personhood is hard to define outside of our relationship with other people. Meaning and purpose seem to be tied up almost inextricably with being in relationship with other people.

Now, a Christian [all those experiences that make us think that Christianity is about a set of rules need to be set aside for a minute], a Christian is someone who is in relationship with the Christ, Jesus. What does that mean? I mean, I guess there are some people who live a kind of supra-human life where they live in this state of blessed 'otherness' and are connected to some supernatural spiritual being or something all the time.

I am not one of those people. I believe that God exists, that He is personal, and He loves me but, how do I believe that? Well, you could say that there is something supernatural or mysterious about that belief. I don't know how I believe it. Many times I experience rest I cannot explain and unsettledness that I cannot escape. One of my recent conversations has been with a friend who feels like Christianity is rational. Like we can explain everything and Christianity can explain everything.

I want to believe that but, I'm afraid that it doesn't really work that way. Can it be that the rational explanations only make sense to some people? Or is it that they seem rational only after something mysterious and spiritual happens in a person so that they can understand it? That isn't the kind of rationality that we're all talking about. As comfortably as we can explain everything in light of Christianity it doesn't mean that those explanations will make sense to everyone.

But, that's fine. Really, I'm ok with the mystery and not being able to understand everything. The truth is that those things that have demonstrated themselves to be true have been true consistently and even though I am not looking around for proofs, it is comforting to any person to see how the mysterious things you believe can comfort you even in the most uncomfortable situations.

What does it mean to be in relationship with Jesus? At least for me, He often feels absent. Yet, what He said was that He wanted us to continue to meet with other followers of Jesus and that in those meetings He would be present. This is where the idea of Church, meetings, and community come from. The idea that aside from the community of Christians we will be missing out on our relationship with Jesus. Other people are not Jesus, thank goodness, but they are the expression of our relationship with Jesus here and now. I don't understand it but, that is what it is.

Now, one of my other conversations had to do with the expression of Christian community. There are those people who would die if they heard of a Christian who had stopped going to an established Church group but, the fact of the matter that even the most organized Churches are still groups of Christians who voluntarily continue to gather together. I guess we could have a long discussion about authority, sound doctrine, and other things but, when it comes to knowing Jesus I think that gathering and sharing life with other Christians is what is most important.

Generally, I would say that the commitment of organized Christianity that forces you to interact with people other than those you would naturally choose and work through differences is one of the most challenging and growing experiences a person can have. But, the voluntary commitment to share life with others is one that all Christians should feel compelled to make and most do, even if it doesn't look the way you might expect it to. That is at least a part of what it means to be in relationship with Jesus.

1 comment:

jwpmeinen said...

Just finished reading a book called "Being Human" by Macaulay and Barrs in which they explore what it means to be "made in the image of God." An underlying thesis is that "to be fully human is to be holy." Relationships are integral, as He is Triune and relational too. Anyway, might be worth your read. As always, enjoy your posts. And hey, did you take that pic of peeps on the beach?

live the questions now... R.M. Rilke