Life is Relational

“If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar; for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?” I John 4:20

Christianity is meant to be personal, but never individualistic. “No Christian,” if I may rephrase John Donne, “is an island to himself.” We should never be concerned only with our own life, our own personal growth, our own problems, or our own group. “Fellowship” (koinonia) means involvement in the lives of people – flesh and blood people, with all of their eccentricities and idiosyncrasies.

The monastic life, in other words, that defines Christianity in terms of withdrawal from people in order to devote oneself entirely to God, though it sounds convincingly spiritual, is in fact lopsided to the point of grotesque error. Love for God manifests itself in the context of service to others, as Jesus asserts in Matthew 25:40. A glaring inconsistency exists in the life of the professed Christian who professes to love God but who refuses involvement in the local church. John Wesley put it succinctly: “There is nothing so unchristian as a solitary Christian.”

Have you ever studied the “one another” texts in Scripture? All such texts must be understood in terms of the New Testament concept of koinonia, sharing in the common life. Within the community of believers, Christians are commanded to “prefer” (Rom. 12:10), “admonish” (Rom. 15:14), “forgive” (Eph. 4:32), “submit to” (Eph. 5:21), “comfort” (I Ths. 4:18), “edify” (I Ths. 5:11), “exhort” (Heb. 3:13), “consider” (Heb. 10:24-25), “confess faults to and pray for” (Jas. 5:16), “have compassion on” (I Pet. 3:8) and “minister to” (I Pet. 4:10) one another. In a word, we are to “love one another” by a commitment to live for others. In a world with a “survival-of-the-fittest” mentality, Jesus calls his followers to a self-forgetful concern for others as the ultimate expression of their love for Him. “Others” – that’s the Christian’s motto, for Christianity is essentially relational.

– Michael L. Gowens