There are degrees of knowing people. I know my brother well and I know my wife. I know some friends better than I know others and this despite distance and frequency of visit. To really know someone is to participate in their being and they in yours. This is the joy of a good marriage. We might call a bad marriage a union in name but it is one in which the couple live separate lives.
There are relationships in the Body of Christ that are like this. But here people may not be separate because they are insincere but separate because their gospel is not Christ’s gospel.*
You need to know that we are the Bride of Christ because we have come out of Christ, the new Adam’s side. Frank Viola un-earthed this truth. As such we are one flesh with Christ in the Spirit. This is another facet of the incarnation and the reality of Christ our life. In a real way we ‘complete Christ’ as His Bride and His Body.
BONES THAT BREATHE
A merely churched life might be described as a skeletal rendition of a relationship with God as in the Valley of Dry Bones. Here our being is skeletal rather than flourishing in fullness even if know of the Gifts and practise them. Breath comes into these bones and they come to life in incarnated Christ – never in the law and old covenant. A religious life might be described as a parsimonious connection to God. A life based on the law is a separated life, but a lived experience of Christ our life is union with God. Anyone can have the latter as Jesus promised to live in us and with us. Richard Rohr writes,
NATURAL AND SUPERNATURAL ARE ONE
There is no sacred and secular in the post cross age. All is holy because Christ is holy and lives in you. Adding to the incarnation with rites and observances is like a man who is swimming in a fresh water river who reaches for his bottled water that he has tied to his swimming costume. It’s redundant and worse. It suffocates the real life of Christ our life.
Johns expression, ‘Christ come in the flesh is as practical and all - embracing as you can get. “Embracing the Christ Mystery becomes utterly practical. Without the mediation of Christ, we will be tempted to overplay the distance and the distinction between God and humanity. But because of the incarnation, the supernatural is forever embedded in the natural, making the very distinction false. How good is that? This is why saints like Augustine and Teresa of Avila, seem to fully equate the discovery of their own souls with the very discovery of God. It takes much of our life, much lived experience, to trust and allow such a process. But when it comes, it will feel like a calm and humble ability to quietly trust yourself and trust God at the same time. Isn’t that what we all want?” (1)
A point raised here is that we know ourselves and we know God in this way. In law-bound, institutional Christianity we are insulated from God like trees transplanted into the soul still in their polythene pots.
We can live an inert life because we have been too lazy to pursue it or because we have made the mistake of believing those who have lied to us.
An acquaintance with some sincere and god-busy people can reveal that they know little of themselves and little of God. Of course they know a god made in their own image – which makes God the legalist that He is not. God is known by living more than by doing. The revelation apportioned to people like Thomas Merton, Baxter Kruger and William P Young is revelation because these people have made the effort not to be a human doing, but a person who is still and empty in the presence of God.
This allows God to be who God is and make Himself known to us as and where we are. But we must be willing to experience a real baptism in Jesus in which the chunks of the non-self are dissolved and the notions that are not God are dispensed with. * C. S. Lewis’s The Great Divorce is the opposite to the Bride of Christ. To live from the law, old covenant and the knowledge of good and evil is to maintain this divorce under the rubric of Christianity. (1) Rohr, Richard. The Universal Christ (p. 87). SPCK. Kindle Edition.