In religious discussions it is common to hear talk about our God relationship. But what does that mean? How do I relate to God and vice versa?
Of course, in our traditional church experiences, we have probably envisioned a number of different ways to see our relationship to God: Father- child, sinner-Savior, servant- master, worthless human- righteous judge, enraptured supplicant- glorious benefactor. All these views pull us in different directions as we struggle in aligning our God concept and the way we live.
Traditionally, our God relationship has been presented as dependent upon obedience to divine requirements. In other words, we were taught to establish and maintain a proper relationship to God by directing our attention to Him and following certain ritual practices, in acts of worship and pious behavior. This church sponsored path to divine relationship focused on God and how we should react to His personal needs and demands. In this definition of relationship, our humanity and our interactions with one another were very much subordinate to how we treated and responded directly to God in worship, respect, admiration, and subservience to His personal exaltation. Strangely, this concept of the God-man relationship made God seem a bit too human-like in His need for human adulation.
A friend recently commented on John 4:23 where Jesus spoke of worshipping in spirit and in truth. He asked what spirit worship meant. Then He suggested that such logically involved practicing the fruits of the spirit as enumerated by Paul in Galatians. For me, that was a very telling view of worship. In the context of Galatians 5, Paul contrasts the fruits of the flesh with those of the spirit. The fleshly ones are all marks of how we should not relate to fellow human beings, The spiritual ones therefore logically also apply to our human to human relationships. In other words, the fruits of the spirit do teach how we relate spiritually, how we worship in spirit, but by demonstrating how to deal with one another and not in how to work directly on God. Our God relationship is essentially defined by how we relate to each other.
Jesus reiterated this very point over and over again.
Mt 25:40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
Mk 12: 28-34
28 And one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, and perceiving that he had answered them well, asked him, Which is the first commandment of all?
29 And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord:
30 And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.
31 And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.
32 And the scribe said unto him, Well, Master, thou hast said the truth: for there is one God; and there is none other but he:
33 And to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbour as himself, is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.
34 And when Jesus saw that he answered discreetly, he said unto him, Thou art not far from the kingdom of God. And no man after that durst ask him any question.
The first and second commandments are intertwined and inseparable in these words of Jesus. You cannot love God separate from loving your neighbor as yourself. Additionally loving your neighbor is vastly more important than all ritualism and acts of worship ever were.
43 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.
44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven.......
Even loving our enemies is said to be a prerequisite to relationship with the Father.
14 For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:
15 But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
Does anyone imagine a relationship with God that doe not include forgiveness?
The reason so many of us struggle to feel God connected is that we seek that connection through religious doctrines and rituals. Jesus did not care about such things and he taught his disciples to honor God by honoring each other, including the stranger and the prisoner. When we try to be godly people through ritual piety and theological knowledge we simply ignore Jesus and his instruction. Those who want to honor God and reject and demonize criminals and foreigners, as somehow subhuman and unworthy of our love and forgiveness, don't really know Jesus because they refuse to hear what he is saying.