I’ve been reflecting on, and becoming more aware of, probably the most missed element of Christianity – it’s communal and unitive half. The way we REALLY achieve human/societal/global/country and community unity.
Christians (especially American Christians) see their faith in a heavily personally/individual fulfilling/transforming/relational reality. Witness the more modern rise of the phrase: “Have you accepted Christ as your personal Lord and Savior?”. And while this is a good question, it is only half the reality of Christianity. We must remember that Christianity and God constantly break through our assumptions and God explodes into our lives with a reality that constantly challenges and stretches us to re-frame our understanding of God, the world, and ourselves. If we are not experiencing this constant reframing and being challenged to accept a new depth of understanding of God, ourselves, and our roles for each other – we haven’t really begun our life of faith. It gets called ‘dying to self’, ‘total transformation of self into the eyes of Christ’ and many others – but this is what it really means.
If our encounter with our faith isn’t like this – we aren’t really experiencing faith but something else… But back to my point. I’ve realized that it is really part of God’s plan that our life as Christians and our personal salvation is an inherently LINKED reality. We are not meant to find fulfillment or salvation on our own. That is why we have the Church – which tradition has long called her the mother or the womb from which Christians are nurtured and born. Jesus came and set an economy of salvation into order. While he did come down to earth in a finite form and a short span of years – and also enters our lives and hearts in a real way – he set up an economy of salvation that he desires to work through, and requires us to have families, parents, relationships, societies, churches, elders, popes, priests and prophets to help the body grow and develop. He wants us to all be participants in his plan of salvation. This means that if we are flying ‘solo’ in our faith life; we are missing much of what God is trying to teach us through others.
This what I’m finding in things like my CPE assignment. We encounter the explosion of Christ into the world through the written words of the Gospel for sure, but we must also see the Christ trying to come out of each person and learn from the Christ present in what his current disciples have learned. While imperfect, if we do not, can not, or are too stubbornly independent to rely on, share with, and learn from other Christians (and non Christians!) and have them rely on us, we will miss the very real and unitive element of Christianity that carries us beyond our own myopia of self-centered faith. It is only when we are in relationship with the Christ in others, and they in relationship with the Christ in us, each helping that image of truth and reality become more and more whole that we can ever hope to become one mind and heart.
I always try to remember that in heaven I will live in perfect unity with all those around me that make it there too – even the ones I don’t agree with right now – and heaven is not a reality that will be some big surprise; but should be the kind of kingdom of God we are living and bringing about now.