People often believe God only cares about what we do and don’t do, about how we act and what we think. But part of the christian faith, and reflecting the very image of God, is about building relationships, community and plurality.
‘Does God really care about how I date, as long as I’m in church on Sunday that’s okay right?’ ‘God’s got more important things on his mind, my relationships surely don’t matter to him?’ ‘I read my Bible, that matters to God, not my friendship.’ ‘Why would God care about who I fancy anyway?’
Doing the work I do, and supporting and meeting the people I do, I hear questions and comments like this a lot. They are often rooted in the idea that God only cares about ‘Holy’ things, like church attendance and reading the Bible.
I think they’re missing a key point. The plurality is being emphasised here
Some people I chat to find it very odd when I say God cares about our relationships. That means our romantic ones, platonic ones, all of our relationships. They find it strange that he cares about how we relate to others.
The thing is, he always has cared about relationships. In Genesis, at the very start of the Bible where God is creating humanity, it says this:
‘Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”’
Reflecting God and Living In Community
Now often people take this passage and say: ‘So if you’re a man you reflect God’s image by…’, ‘If you’re a woman you reflect God’s image by…’. But I think they’re missing a key point. The plurality is being emphasised here. God say ‘let us’, and ‘in our image’. Which brings out the relational aspect even more.
Relating to others and living in relationship seems to be part of reflecting the God who lives in community. The triune God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit, three distinct being but one God.
What seems to be the focus is the relational aspect. The togetherness. The plurality.
We reflect the community found within the triune God. And find joy in that.
It’s not just here, relationships are emphasised throughout the Bible. For example, at the very end of the Bible God says He will dwell with His people (Revelation 21:1-4), and the incarnation is all about God in the human form, as Jesus, coming down from heaven to live among his creation (Matthew 1:23; John 1:14). Genesis even says it is not right for man to be alone (Genesis 2:8).
Relating To God and Others
It is not just about relating, but relating well. God has always been in the business of relating to us, but we also need to relate well with our neighbour and love them too. As the greatest commandment says:
“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
Reflecting God in his imagine is partly to do with building good loving relationships, with God and with others. Being together, being in a community, building healthy relationships and existing in plurality. Being together is why people were created. We reflect the community found within the triune God. And find joy in that.
So it does matter how we relate to those we like, to our friends, to our colleagues, our enemies, our spouses, everyone.
In a culture which says it’s all about ‘me’, or all about buying more things, or focusing on the perfect career, we need to remind ourselves that we are designed to relate. To build relationships and reflect God in the plurality, not just on our own.
Do you believe the way we relate to each other is a vital part of the christian faith?