The core of relationship is devotion to one another. The fulfillment of God's entire law is to love one another. This is a commitment to each other in the face of anything and everything. If simply not maintaining an ongoing meeting is enough to sever the relationship it was not a true relationship built on love, but on convenience. Welcome to Christianity in the world today, a faith of consumerism and convenience.
I look forward to my buddies (Hirsch and Frost) release of their book on liminal experience called The Faith of Leap (April 2011) which I believe with help us understand how relationships are affected by missional experience. You see, when a relationship is tested in an adverse situation where we need to come through for each other, it becomes real, deep and lasting. If it cannot even endure the cancellation of a regular meeting it is not a relationship of depth in any degree.
We no longer bring our relationships into environments where we simply must depend on each other for survival. Instead we limit what our relationships are to easily managed but not very deep activities that do not develop beyond the level of acquaintance. Ironically, the very thing that can forge a true, deep and lasting relationship--mission--is feared because it is seen as a threat to our weak but convenient relationships.
It is when we take our relationships into mission that they become stronger, not weaker. By avoiding mission under the pretext that regular meetings are necessary to maintain a relationship then we do not have relationships worth maintaining in the first place.
When the flaming missiles whiz past your ears and your brother or sister is the one watching your back as you watch theirs, you become connected in the depth of your soul. You need each other, and when you are there for one another the relationship becomes deep and lasting. As you sacrifice for each other's success, you have learned what love truly is.
The young men who stormed the beaches of Normandy under a barrage of bullets, and who lost many comrades, have come to know a deep relationship with brothers that endures a lifetime. They may not see each other every day, every week, or even every year, but still many keep connected more than 66 years later. Their lives are tied together, not by convenience but by a deeper experience that transcends meetings, tasks or membership. When you know that you are alive today because of this other person's sacrifice, you value the relationship at the depth of your being.
If you cannot even maintain a relationship after a regular meeting has ended then the relationship was not much. Convenience is not the foundation of the Christian faith. Love is.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.Love is not always convenient, but it is always true and faithful and for the benefit of others.
Paul's description of what a community looks like in the face of opposition and for the cause of the gospel reveals what our relationships should actually look like:
Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God. For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him, since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have. (Phil 1: 27-30)