I am sad today because I am experiencing a gulf between me and a person close to me. I believe it is not a mere subjective separation but an actual separation in the spiritual domain. What is worse is that I am the one who created it, and that she is not even aware of the rupture in intimacy, at least not yet. I created it by my sin, and I will tell you about it so that you will not do what I have done.
The cause of the gulf is my sharing with a few people a serious ongoing sin in the life of this woman—so that they would pray for her. But today when I talked to the woman and realized as we spoke amicably that she has no knowledge of what I have shared with others, I felt sick about what I have done. Turns out that when a deception is introduced into any relationship—whether it is a malicious betrayal or (as in this case) an area that one must conceal—there is a loss of reality. There is a loss of true “touching” of the other.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in The Cost of Discipleship, offered a fascinating insight into a metaphysical aspect of human relationship:
“The call of Jesus teaches us that our relation to the world has been built on an illusion. All the time we thought we had enjoyed a direct relation with men and things. … Now we learn that in the most intimate relationships of life—in our kinship with father and mother, brothers and sisters, in married love, and in our duty to the community—direct relationships are impossible. Since the coming of Christ, his followers have no more immediate realities of their own. … Between father and son, husband and wife, the individual and the nation, stands Christ the Mediator, whether they are able to recognize him or not. We cannot establish direct contact outside ourselves except through him, through his word, and through our following of him. To think otherwise is to deceive ourselves.”
Francis Schaeffer came at the same principle from a different angle in one of his books. He talked about a couple who had drifted into his Swiss Christian commune L’Abri. They were unbelievers who were madly in love and talked long into the night in desperation to achieve a kind of oneness that continued to elude them. Schaeffer, pondering the situation, understood the spiritual truth that apart from Christ at the center of a human relationship, that relationship is limited and hits a wall and cannot “touch.” The parties are consigned to a fundamental separateness even as they long to mesh their souls.
Now we are ready for a blockbuster from Scripture, hitherto a “sleeper” of a verse for me:
“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another …” (1 John 1:7, ESV).
The condition of the possibility of authentic human relationship is Christ at the center. Another way of putting this is that the only way one human being can have “fellowship with … another” is to walk “in the light.” To walk “in the light” is to abide in Christ through obedience, particularly obedience to the rule of love.