I believe the 1 John passage is a good passage to go back to in reference to the interrelation we are to have with other Christians. We have spoken a little about the difference between using our confrontation and subsequent interrelation with the Body as the starting point in the process of spiritual knowledge as apposed to the individual’s “enlightenment,” and subsequent decision to join like minded individuals. This idea, man’s autonomous ability to come to truth on his own, is what I am suggesting is a primary culprit in the “Church Invisible” losing its interrelational identity. Western Civilization, especially, has become so focused on the individual’s ability to objectively discern all truth for himself that the desire to submit one’s observations to the accountability of a larger community has become undesirable, if not suspect. Southern Baptists, of which I have traditionally been involved with, are some of the worst at pushing for the complete autonomy of every participant within the church system. The individual worshiper is autonomous in their spiritual life and thus can not effectively be held accountable. Each local church is touted as being autonomous and thus not inherently tied to the accountability of another church of like persuasion. Our associations consist of little more than websites for us to find our church listed and to organize an occasional softball league. With this bent toward individuality in mind, let’s look at an example in the Word where John is reaching out to the lost in order that they might be interrelated.
1 John 1:1-4
“1What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life—2and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us—3what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ. 4These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete.” (NASB)
Do you notice all the “we”s involved in this passage? He is certainly talking from the perspective of a collective. And what is the purpose of this intro? Is it not to reveal to the ones in the dark that there consists a community of light within Jesus Christ that calls to them, that they might see and become a part of the “fellowship?” “You too may have fellowship with us: and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.” Where is the individual in this play of wills? Where is the autonomous self? “What was from the beginning” was revealed to a fallen, un-interrelated community so that a new interrelated community in Christ, The Body, might be inaugurated. Ever since the inauguration, our call to others has been “Join Us,” not “Join Me.”
J. Truett Glen
(This post first appeared at www.interrelationalchurch.blogspot.com on April 6, 2006)