Many Christians take for granted that building and nourishing relationships is vital to Christianity’s existence. In a system where one’s ability or inability to attain piety and follow the rules can earn you the labels of godly or ungodly, it’s easy to place religious performance on a pedestal at the expense of relationship with your neighbor.
I am convinced that unless we have healthy relationships, Christianity is nothing but a system of self-absorbed ideologies and empty rituals designed to make us feel good about ourselves in our apathy towards our neighbors. Theological savviness, devout volunteerism, perfect church attendance and unrelenting passion for missionary work do not matter outside the realm of relationship.
What is Christianity without relationships? When asked what sums up the law, Jesus said, “Love the Lord your God…” and “love your neighbor…” These two commandments make a connection between relationship with God and relationship with other. This connection is significant because it reminds us that one cannot have a good relationship with God if one is unable to have a good relationship with people, or vice versa.
Some of Jesus’s contemporaries were pious. They obeyed the Law. They knew their Scripture. But they treated people miserably. Most of these leaders cared more about their religious practices than about engaging the people in their community.
Jesus taught something different. He taught that obedience to the Law, orthodox theology, and even observance of the Sabbath means very little to God when we ignore relationship. And how can it mean anything? Everything we Christians strive for revolves around our relationships — strong church community, healthy marriages, good kids, leading people to Christ, etc.
We cannot engage God solely by remembering Scripture or volunteering at a pregnancy center. We engage God by engaging the very people we were called to be in community with. Our mission to spread the gospel is futile when we are unable to engage relationally with one another.
What does it mean to be in relationship? Your answer will reflect the kind of relationship you have with God.