Ayn Rand applauded a culture in which the interests and desires of the individual take precedence over those of the family, group, or community. Frequently, I hear “I am spiritual, but not religious” or “I like Jesus, but not Christianity.” I applaud the courage and honesty of people who have had bad experiences with churches, yet continue their spiritual search beyond the church. They want nothing further to do with organized religion. They are honestly interested in a relationship with God, but not if they have to be part of an organization.
That may take them on a long and interesting pilgrimage, but I don’t know if it’s possible to get to experience God in the full way that they describe. Here’s what I mean. C.S. Lewis was part of a famous circle of friends called the Inklings, which included J.R.R. Tolkien, the author of The Lord of the Rings, and also the author Charles Williams, who died unexpectedly after World War II. In The Four Loves, Lewis wrote a striking meditation on his death in an essay entitled, “Friendship.”
In each of my friends there is something that only some other friend can fully bring out. By myself I am not large enough to call the whole man into activity; I want other lights than my own to show all his facets. Now that Charles is dead, I shall never again see Ronald’s [Tolkien’s] reaction to a specifically Charles joke. Far from having more of Ronald, having him “to myself” now that Charles is away, I have less of Ronald. In this, Friendship exhibits a glorious “nearness by resemblance” to heaven itself where the very multitude of the blessed (which no man can number) increases the fruition which each of us has of God. For every soul, seeing Him in her own way, doubtless communicates that unique vision to all the rest. That, says an old author, is why the Seraphim in Isaiah’s vision are crying “Holy, Holy, Holy” to one another (Isaiah 6:3). The more we thus share the Heavenly Bread between us, the more we shall have.
It takes community to know an individual. How much more would this be true of Jesus Christ? Only if I am part of a community of believers seeking to resemble, serve, and love Jesus will I ever get to know him and grow into his likeness.