Not ‘I’ but ‘us’ | Relationship as the essence and goal of human wholeness

I remember ending my week with a goodbye that underscored a sense of lonesomeness as it means that for a time life will be lived apart from a loved one.  While, the following day I started the week with a celebration of my father’s 85th birthday that also coincided with Father’s Day.

Thinking about it now further reinforces my conviction that our humanity if we are to look at human life it can be summed up in terms of relationships. It is in relationships that we discover ourselves and our tenacity to live and make meaning in living –because to be human is to stand in a unique relationship to God, to one another, and to all creation. This, of course is because God, as Trinity, is relational[1]. The perichoretic God[2] makes perichoretic people. God’s being-as-communion overflows in humans’ being-in-community. Therefore we as humans have no being apart from others. Humanity is co-humanity[3].

From the very beginning, Adam and Eve’s call was to take part in the unfolding of God’s plan of creation that brought into play by the traits which distinguishes us from the rest of creation, while at the same time establishes a fixed relationship between us and the rest of creation. We are made in the image and likeness of God, Adam and Eve were to have put into effect their dominion over the earth that is to: image, reflect or represent God who has put all things into motion.

Yet, this relationship in its present state is marred by the consequences of what we call as the Fall and the sin in our lives –that is this deeply rooted tendency to selfishness which in all of us taints even our best intentions and implicates us all in the web of human evil,[4] where we find pride and an innate desire for autonomy which is now bound together by distrust and an anxious desire for security that is apart and over and against God[5] hindering us from fully becoming the relational beings that we are intended to be by our Creator.

However it is this state of divine tragedy that the God of Creation came to liberate us. It is in this condition that God in Christ entered the Created world and related Himself to people in all facets of human activity and in loving consequence reconciled humanity with God through His act of self-giving love on the Calvary. In Jesus Christ God has actualised His unconditional love for us in our human nature in such a once for all way, that He cannot go back upon it without undoing the Incarnation and the Cross[6].

Accordingly, we find in Christ the fullness of our humanity, in Christ we find life –that is life in full (John 10:10). That is why Joan Chittister, writes that: “It is not what we do but what (or who) I love that makes the difference between being simply a spiritual virtuoso and being a saint[7].” For holiness, is the goal of humanity –it is ‘wholeness’ –in the sense that it is experiencing life in full and it is a life that groans for its ultimate fulfilment in Christ (Romans 8:22), it is a life that looks forward to a future wherein God will be all in all (1 Corinthians 15:28).

For that reason we are now made to realize that in as far as living the Christian life goes there is no such thing as a spiritual and material dichotomy, because this world is the arena upon which our lives unfold and as a people who claim kinship with God in Christ –we are now called to participate in this redemptive and reconciling work of Christ in all aspects of the lives we live in the here and now.

I believe that it is in understanding this that we can be able to move forward n dealing with the Christian Gospel merely from the vantage point of proclamation toward living it as a life structure upon which we are now called to orient our lives upon as individuals that find completion in relationships that we have with God, people, society and the rest of Creation, making it more than just verbal expression of faith is shaped and guided by the story of Jesus.

It is in relationships that are valued and lived fully in this life that we now find the true essence of our humanity and our vocation as God’s people.  It is in relationships that we desire to be and to do good, because creation’s goal in Christ is to be restored into what the Genesis narrative testified as a creation that the Creator deemed as “good” (Genesis 1).

Therefore to be fully human means that in Christ all human activity is redeemed and that we Christians are called to participate in the redemption of life by living it in the context of this ‘wholeness’ that is animated by our human relationships that will in time find its ultimate fulfilment in the consummation of the entire cosmos where there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away (Revelation 21:3), because creation has finally been transposed to the climax of God’s story where indeed: God is all in all!

[1] Colin Gunton writes: “A [proper] doctrine of the Trinity…can only be the result of thought about the economy of salvation through Christ and the Spirit. That is the necessary order of knowing: from God’s relatedness to the world, make known in Christ, to a doctrine of his eternal being in relation.” (Christ and Creation: The Didsbury Lectures, 1990 (Eugene: Wipf & Stock, 2005) pp. 75-6)

[2] The term perichoretic comes from the theological term called perichoresis John of Damascus defines it such: “The subsistences [i.e., the three Persons] dwell and are established firmly in one another. For they are inseparable and cannot part from one another, but keep to their separate courses within one another, without coalescing or mingling, but cleaving to each other. For the Son is in the Father and the Spirit: and the Spirit in the Father and the Son: and the Father in the Son and the Spirit, but there is no coalescence or commingling or confusion. And there is one and the same motion: for there is one impulse and one motion of the three subsistences, which is not to be observed in any created nature” (John of Damascus, The Orthodox Faith, Book 1 Chapter xc14).

[3] Pannenberg, Wolfhart. Systematic Theology, Volume 2. trans Geoffrey W. Bromiley. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans 1994) p.226

[4] Doctrine Commission of the Church of England. The Mystery of Salvation (Wiltshire: Morehouse, 1995) p.102

[5] Gay, Craig. Cash Values: Money and the Erosion of Meaning in Today’s Society (Grand Rapids: Eedermans, 2003) p.89

[6] Torrance, Thomas. The Mediation of Christ, (Colorado Springs: Helmers & Howard, 1992) pp. 93-95.

[7] Chittister, Joan. Becoming fully human: the greatest glory of God, (Lanham: Sheed & Ward, 2005) p.33


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