The Way To Communion
I have noticed a trend among my brothers and sisters in Christ. I have noticed it ever since I first came to know Jesus. There seems to be a confusion in the church about what it means to be in relationship with God. Often I hear, and I am sure you have as well, statements like, "I want to serve God well" "We exist for His glory" "We need to lay it all down for God" "We need to learn to die to self." I want to comment I do not disagree with these concepts outright. I believe the heart behind these statements is pure and beautiful! But I feel they may betray a misunderstanding of the gospel message.
Paul, when writing the Galatian church said, "And because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, 'Abba, Father.' Now you are no longer a slave but God’s own child. And since you are his child, God has made you his heir" (Gal 4:6-7 NLT). I think it is important to emphasize the language Paul uses here, as it isolates a central theme in the gospel message. Paul draws a distinction between being a slave and being a child of God. A slave is someone who is owned by another, in the first century before the term δοῦλος was used for slaves it simply meant "unfree." It refers to those who are legally in a position of bondage, those who have quite literally become the property of another. This is contrasted with the concept of sonship. Sonship implies acceptance, intimacy, and fellowship. It does not connote the idea of ownership, or even partnership, but speaks rather of filial relationship. To Paul the idea of serving God in as much as the law was concerned was in direct opposition to the good news.
I think we honor God when we seek to lay our lives down for Him. I believe we please Him when we invite Him to mold us and shape us, but there is a difference in attitude when one approaches God from the place of sonship. The language shifts from statements of necessity indicating obligation into the language of desire stemming from a pure heart of honor, love, and gratitude.
This response of one's heart is the result of communion, it is not the way to communion. There is a difference. I want to live for Him because I know Him and have been affected by His character.
So what does it mean to have relationship with God? It means that I actually know Him. It means that I actively take steps in the direction of cultivating a living relationship with Him. I set aside time to commune with Him. I invite Him to come and visit me, to speak to me, to reveal Himself to me. I in turn visit Him, speak to Him, and reveal myself to Him. Prayer is truly the only place where this communion is realized in a direct fashion. Sure I can have moments where I encounter God in various situations, but prayer is something sacred. It is intentional and intimate. It requires my active participation. I must therefore invest in it, and thus invest in the relationship. Reading about God simply isn't enough, disciplines are wonderful at cultivating nearness to God, but prayer is by far the king of them all.
Prayer is not necessarily about closed eyes, clasped hands, and bent knees, rather it is an intentional turning of one's heart and focus towards God, and hosting His presence. It is, at its foundation, a two-way conversation between me and and my Father. I open up and invite Him in, and in turn, He does the same. This is not the activity of the slave, for the slave has no place at the table of fellowship with their master. They cannot enter into this type of nearness. Thus we must throw off any salve mentality, and instead take ownership of our sonship.