The way we talk about personal relationships with God, which is the necessary foundation to build up the notion that we can be “spiritual but not religious” or “Christian but not churched,” is like saying that we can be part of a family without ever interacting with members of the family. Technically, it’s not wrong. Plenty of people never speak with their parents or siblings, which doesn’t mean they aren’t related. But God desires more for us than to live in a constant state of isolation.
To claim Christianity without other Christians is to treat the bible as an old dusty photo album. The bible becomes a book you can pull out any time you like to look over the past photos and memories of what the family of God has been. You can think fondly of the stories and the images you find, which can uplift and encourage you through the hope that the same God is still present and active in your life. It’s a very powerful thing to occasionally flip through that old dusty album and to be reminded of who and whose you are.
At some point, however, it is time to put the album down and go out to make new memories with the family. The kingdom of God is more like an active family reunion than a solitary perusal of the family photo album. It’s all well and good to remember that you are technically part of a family, but God desires that we actively seek forgiveness and reconciliation and relationship with our brothers and sisters. There may be nothing wrong with looking through the good book, but isolating yourself in the past does nothing to heal the brokenness we experience every day and it does nothing to move us toward the fullness of what God desires for us.
Heaven is like one last family reunion where all the brokenness and hurt and “things we just don’t talk about” are washed away. All that is left is the beauty of the relationships for which we were created in the image of God. If that is the direction toward which God is guiding our lives, we might as well start learning what it’s like when we refuse to accept a photo album and start to expect a real family.