Relationship

Torah doesn’t call upon us to believe in God but to have a relationship 'to God’. Belief is a number of ideas that I ascribe to. Any ideas about God are so small compared to God’s presence. Rather it is relationship… knowing God. Hebrew word for knowing is ‘intimate knowing’. Intimate connection to the presence that is at the core of our life, that is moving through everything, here and right now. God is relationship itself. There is a Midrash on the first words of Genesis… ‘In the beginning God created relationship’… Relationship is at the centre of all creation… We have been taught that we are individuals, free standing individuals that choose to be in relationship or not. Torah teaches that we are here for relationship… relationship precedes us being here... it is hard wired into us. You can’t not have it… you can however have a bad version of it. There is no free standing ‘I’ and ‘thou’ but 'I-thou’. - Rabbi Nahum Ward-Lev.

There is a unique coupling that occurs in the Genesis narrative of our sacred scriptures; heaven and earth, light and darkness, night and day, humans and animals, male and female. It gives us a glimpse into the beautiful nature of relationship as a reflection of God. All of life is made for some kind of connection and communion as it seeks to evolve and expand us in its fruitful dynamism. The ancient words of be 'fruitful and multiply’ would become the divine mantra of reverence that would overlay the human journey of maturation.

God is absolute relatedness. I would name salvation as simply the readiness, the capacity, and the willingness to stay in relationship. - Richard Rohr, Divine Dance.

The art of navigating the trajectory of our relational journey is the one true purpose for why we are created in the image and likeness of transcendence. All the way through our religious narrative are stories about the radical nature of relationship as it interacts around togetherness and apart-ness, acceptance and rejection, conflict and resolution. The Genesis garden moment of temptation is a reflection of our inevitable propensity to sacrifice our relational integrity on the altar of individuality. What better reminder do we need to highlight the importance of  solidarity as a holy virtue.

My independence is confronted daily by the spirit of interdependence that relationship constantly brings to the table. When I find myself bifurcated and disorientated inside, which is an quotidian experience, salvific grace comes to me over and over again with a redemptive invitation to enter back into a unified wholeness. That wholeness is the transformation that occurs when I commit myself to some kind of collective action and engagement with others.

‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’*[From the Cretan philosopher Epimenides] As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’*[From the Cilician Stoic philosopher Aratus] - Acts 17.

When St Paul finds himself in Athens on Mars Hill, sharing the gospel with his Greek audience, he borrows a few lines from the local poets, poems that were primarily about Zeus and his relationship with humanity. The brilliance of this inclusive stroke of genius highlights the nature of mission as a restorative move to reconnect cultures and collectively combine the wisdom of their narratives as a way to redeem and restore relationship. Historically we have presented this as a proselytising pitch that confronts the heathen cultures presenting the good news of Jesus as an evacuation strategy for afterlife assurance. Paul however, reminds us that the spirit of Christ has been working in people way before the Jesus narrative arrived on the scene.

This suggests that relationship with God always been alive and well on planet earth, we just didn't know the full extent of its inclusive nature. To quote Paul in his letter to the Colossians: “The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”

“God has always been in relationship to us, journeying with us, and yearning to be known by us.”  ― Marcus J. Borg, The God We Never Knew: Beyond Dogmatic Religion To A More Authentic Contemporary Faith

To be human means that You can never not be in relationship with God, even though that relationship can be under developed on so many levels. We often move from one surface thrill to the next trying to capture the essence of closeness and love like a one night stand rather take the plunge into the deep well of oneness and transformation, realising the transcendent nature of relationship is primarily understood through the lens of human interplay, reciprocity and commitment.

When we pursue a deeper and more vulnerable posture of closeness and connectedness we create space for a very ‘present’ God that empowers and energises our bond. One theologian said that the Holy Spirit is the love between the Father and Son, the electrical surge that creates a bond of mutual interpenetration and shared experience, resulting in an increased impact on human consciousness. Relationship is hard wired into the universe, an intrinsic force that that honours the divine purpose for why we live, move, and have our being. Every time that you choose to intentionally notice and engage with a significant other you enhance your relational capacity and go deeper into the mystery of togetherness.

Greg Burson