Though we have all probably heard to the contrary, there is nothing that is actually "just between you and God." Everything about our lives with God inevitably affects others. Plus, as inescapably social beings, our lives with God are always affected by others. So, in the context of this week's discussions, talking about returning to God with our relationships is a bit of a chicken-and-egg discussion. Our relationships play a huge role in shaping the quality of our life with God, and the quality of our life with God shapes every relationship we have. Let's look first at the way that our relationships impact our life with God: We do not become spiritually healthy people apart from spiritually healthy community. John Wesley was perhaps (in my biased opinion) as effective as any in Christian history at helping individuals grow, but he insisted that we do not progress in life with God on our own. He said, “'Holy solitaries' is a phrase no more consistent with the gospel than holy adulterers. The gospel of Christ knows of no religion but social; no holiness but social holiness."(3)
The application here is obnoxiously simple: if you want to be someone who has more of the character of Jesus, spend more time with more people who have more of the character of Jesus.
So what about the other side of it–thinking that things are just between me and God? Wesley again: "Christianity is essentially a social religion...to turn it into a solitary one is to destroy it."(4) Part of Jesus' point in saying that his hearers were a city on a hill that cannot be hidden is this inevitability of our lives affecting those around us. I would not want to try to hide New York. It is just as difficult to keep anything between just God and me.
Some considerations for each side of this:
- When I look back at the path of my Christian life, a major turning point was when, before my senior year of college, I sent a letter to my campus pastor. He was the most authentic disciple of Jesus I knew, and I wanted his kind of life with God. I had no idea what his schedule was like, but I asked if we could spend some time together. He invited me to be with him for an hour every week, and the course of my life changed. Think of someone whose life with God is of the kind that you desire to have. Invite them to a meal, send them an email, or give them a call.
- Is there some area of your life where you'd prefer to think something was remaining between you and God and not affecting anyone else? If what I have said here is true, who might it be affecting without you having been aware? What do you need to do about it?
A Prayer for the Day:
Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified: Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.*
A Prayer for the Week:
Almighty and everliving God, in your tender love for the human race you sent your Son our Savior Jesus Christ to take upon him our nature, and to suffer death upon the cross, giving us the example of his great humility: Mercifully grant that we may walk in the way of his suffering, and also share in his resurrection; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.*
*From The Book of Common Prayer (3) From Wesley's preface to his "Hymns and Sacred Poems" (4) From Wesley's sermon, "Upon Our Lord's Sermon on the Mount, Discourse 4"
[This is part of 40 Days of Prayer: Daily Emails for Lent]