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  Title: Relationships
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In a community centred around family life, personal relationships are of special importance. Learning to deal with them is as much a factor in our formation as those practices which are traditionally considered to be spiritual disciplines. Learning to deal with relationships involves certain principles which, although seemingly self-evident, nevertheless usually have to be learned by experience. Chief among these is the recognition that we are all people under authority. This is not a reference to a community command structure, but a recognition that we are under the authority of Christ who is also present in each one of us. Thus, we can speak of being submitted to Christ in one another. That is the framework for working out any relationship difficulties. It is also as servants of Christ that each takes full responsibility for the whole life and calling of the Community. That is the fundamental basis for the way we live in community, not whether we have certain gifts or inclinations.

Being "under authority" in this sense is an ancient idea. In the early days of the church, Christians thought of themselves as soldiers. A soldier was not only a person under strict military discipline, but also one who was expected to engage in battle and die if necessary. Death and injury (in those days real, not metaphorical) simply came with the territory. Those who were not Christians were thought of as civilians, for which the Latin word was pagani - our modern word "pagan". Civilians were not expected to be under discipline, or to risk their lives. Nowadays this idea is much more relaxed, perhaps even non-existent in many church circles. In our life, it is perhaps reflected in the assumptions or the ground rules that govern our life and relationships - assumptions that would not normally apply in ordinary church life.

We are speaking here of a spirit rather than a law, although that is not to say that it cannot be taught and learned. The matter of fact way in which the centurion said to Jesus "I too am a man under authority, saying to one person 'do this' and he does it" (Lk. 7.6-9) is a picture of the authority of Christ among us. We do not expect to fight with other members of the Community, as if they were our enemy or as if their input into our lives were no more than their personal opinions; we expect to listen and be listened to. As with the centurion and Jesus, we look for that mutual recognition of the authority of our calling. This is how the peace of Christ reigns among us, and the responsibility for the whole of our life is shouldered and shared.

Many Christians today behave more like the pagans in that ancient sense. They claim to be under the authority of Christ, but fail to take his word with any degree of seriousness. Especially is this true of the word of Christ mediated in everyday life through fellow believers. Yet the notion of "Christ in you" is the central mystery of the Christian faith, according to the apostle Paul. This brings an immediacy to our belief in Christ and our submission to his authority. It is through our relationships, and our mutual submission to one another in them, that the risen Christ once again becomes a palpable presence.


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