“Cut Off From Me You Can Do Nothing”

In today’s world it is quite easy to play Christian, in several meanings of the word. For some people, Christianity is no more than a game they play, a Sunday image that makes life easier. For others, it is a performance, not solely on Sundays but throughout the week. These ‘Christians’ see Christianity as something one ‘does’ more than something one ‘is’. By spouting piety and praying often enough (and usually publically enough) one can subsist qua Christian. Yet these actions clearly do not depend on he who is the source of Christianity, for their import lies solely on the exterior and any man can train himself to ‘play’ Christianity upon the stage of the world.

There is a deep and abiding difference between choosing to be a Christian or to do Christianity. The heart of being a Christian is being with Christ. This is the heart of the final discourse of Christ in the Gospel of St. John, speaking of abiding, remaining, and so forth. Among the most telling terms is that Jesus calls his disciples ‘friends.’

Many words have been written on friendship (if one wishes to do a study Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics books 8 & 9 and C.S. Lewis’ The Four Loves are excellent places to start) but there is only one element of it I’d like to bring up here. Friendship is, fundamentally, a relationship of presence. Aristotle says that a good friendship cannot exist at a distance; it is but on hold until the friends are again present to each other. This is not necessarily true in the same way today with the advent of long-distance communications, though when they work well they work by collapsing the distance, thus making friends present to each other.

One need not read a scholarly pursuit to see this is the case. Everyone understands this desire for presence; we are content spending time with a friend for no other reason than to be with that friend. Friendship grows by doing anything together, be it enjoyable (watching a movie), laborious (studying), or simply neutral. One spends time with a friend simply because they are a friend.

This is at the heart of being a Christian. One does not set out to do all sorts of things, but simply to be with Christ, to enjoy the presence of the Bridegroom when he comes. This dwelling-with naturally leads to action, just as being with a friend leads to doing something with that friend. And should we dwell-without, we become cut off and even if we do all the ‘Christian’ things, we are doing nothing. It is only in being with Christ that we become a Christian, that we can do what a Christian does. And there we have life, and have it more abundantly.

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