A comment in response to Christian Relationships #1 (https://inaspaciousplace.wordpress.com/2014/05/26/christian-relationships-1/), raises an obvious and troubling question for the church.

Bruce Bryant-Scott commented saying,

This is the air we breathe and the ground upon which we walk, yet so often we miss the ubiquity of the importance of relationship in scripture

If Bruce is right and, in this case I believe he is profoundly right, his observation on “the ubiquity of the importance of relationship in scripture” begs the question, why we have so often missed or over-looked this emphasis, down-playing the importance of relationship in our actual practice of Christian faith.

The most obvious explanation is that relationships are just too hard.

Getting along is tough. People are awkward, unpredictable, and often utterly bewildering. The communication skills that are essential to making human relationships work, are difficult to master. Much of the time we are like ships passing in the night. The potential for misunderstanding even in the most intimate relationship is unlimited. There seems to be no way to bridge the gaping chasms that divide the human community.

Human relationships make us feel vulnerable and uncertain. We know we cannot control or even predict the choices and decisions of people in our lives. Other people threaten our sense of autonomy and power. It is almost impossible to avoid falling into the trap of power struggles with other people at some point. Ego and the determination to dominate, divide and separate, creating further fragmentation between people.

The unavoidable difficulty of other people means that living in relationship is frequently painful. We human beings hurt each other. We let each other down, betray each other, and fail to live up to our fullest and most noble intentions. It is often easier to retreat from a relationship than to stay connected and do the hard work of getting along. It seems these days that almost any excuse will suffice as justification to walk away from other people.

The church has often found it easier to focus on theology, emphasizing the importance of getting our doctrines and dogmas right rather than getting along with those challenging people who insist on disagreeing with us. It has been easier to diminish the Christian life to a matter of choosing to live morally rather than rising to the challenge of sacrificial love that is willing to bear the pain of being in relationship with people whose life experience is profoundly different than ours.

If churches are going to bear witness to the love that Jesus embodied, we are going to have to choose the difficult path of putting up with disagreements, bearing with pain, living with difference, and carrying on together in the face of the awkward business of being in relationship. The demonstration of Christ’s presence at work in our midst comes, not from standing self-righteously upon our version of the truth, but from bearing with people in all of the confusion, bewilderment and compromise that are an inevitable part of any authentic human relationships.

If we are going to stay connected to any community larger than the tiny little group of thoroughly like-minded people we find agreeable, we are going to need to learn to accept differences, get over grudges, and practice the hard discipline of regular humility. Jesus called this the “way of the cross”; it is seldom popular, but always opens us to the power of resurrection.