Relationships

3 Feb

There is no shortage of articles and books about how to establish and maintain good relationships. So much of our happiness and meaning is related directly to how we get along with other people. I don’t have to remind you, I’m sure, that relationships based on lies, deceit, or pure self-interest don’t last very long and the bitter after-taste is often in broken lives and deep scars.

I’m thinking of this because just the other day I listened to someone comment on the sixth chapter of Mark’s Gospel, focusing particularly on verses one through six. These verses tell the story of Jesus going back to his hometown, speaking in the local synagogue, and encountering harsh criticism about his activities and his authority to teach. Grumblers asked “who does he think he is? Isn’t this the carpenter? Mary’s son…” Their skepticism led Jesus to speak an often quoted line: “Prophets are honored everywhere except in their own hometowns, among their relatives, and in their own households.” The text pulls no punches: “They (the townspeople) were repulsed by him…”

There was no relationship between Jesus and the local folks, at least not a good one. And it occurs to me that Mark is making just that point in telling this little story. If I have no relationship with fine art, then the works of the masters have no meaning for me. No relationship with sports and athletics, no interest in sitting through an agonizing nine innings. Without a relationship with gardening and growing things, I could care less about the landscape. And so it is with faith. No wonder the text says that Jesus was not able to do any miracles in the neighborhood. Nobody believed he could, expected them to happen, or really cared one way or the other.

Faith is based on the concept of relationship. To be told all your life that God is love and faith is good for you, but to never establish a relationship with God does not produce faith. Or, to be what is often called a “nominal” Christian, that’s someone who warms a pew every Sunday but never moves beyond that to establish a relationship with the Spirit, is to settle for a first-grade faith in a complex world. The barometer of a strong, healthy faith measures the quality of the relationship, not attendance, not contributions, and not the number of classes one attends. And so I remind myself that on those occasions when my faith feels weak, when the spiritual well runs dry, it’s time to tend the relationship. And that means, at least for me, re-establishing the conversation, getting outside myself in order to invest in others, and re-evaluating personal priorities.

Love isn’t love unless there is an object of your love. Friendship doesn’t exist if you don’t have a single friend. And faith isn’t rich and power-giving and comforting if there is no relationship with The Other.

Just something to think about.

One Response to “Relationships”

  1. Susan February 4, 2021 at 8:17 am #

    Wow preach Roger preach! 👏 love this . Excellent comparisons. I loved the concept of first grade faith in a complex world. Reminded me of how i was raised in a faith where we just had to warm pews and repeat formulated prayers. Because of you and adult spiritual growth learning opportunities i am beginning to work on relationship. Better late than never….

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