Relation or Relationship?
The titles, “the Bride of Christ” and “the Body of Christ,” more than others, convey the difference between an organism as opposed to an organization. These titles also help us understand the differences between what it means to be a relation as opposed to be in a relationship. Boyfriends and girlfriends have relationships, which mean they like each other enough to text one another, to email one another, comment on one another’s Facebook, and hopefully, to learn how to treat one another with deference, manners and by God’s grace, reverence. That is a good thing and there is nothing to be held against either one of them as they enlarge their circle of relationships. Within relationships one is not called upon to forsake all other people for the rest of one’s life. Relationships come and go throughout life albeit some occasionally grow into friendships. Still, friendships may come to an end and as hurtful as it may be to end friendships we accept it as part of our life. On the other hand, to be a relation is as different from being in a relationship as being married is different from having a girlfriend or a boyfriend. A husband and wife are called upon in the Form of Solemnization of Matrimony to forsake “all others, (and) keep thee only unto her, so long as ye both shall live.” (p. 301 BCP) There are only four ways to be a relation of another person: a man and woman may marry and thus become “one flesh,” one may be born into a family, or one may be legally adopted and thereby assume all the duties and prerogatives of birth. A possible fourth way may be citizenship of a nation; and though there are some biblical metaphors that grow out of that relation, it doesn’t have the gravity of a household which is the preferred metaphor of our Lord and his Apostles when speaking of the mystical marriage between Christ and his Church.
It sometimes appears that there has been a conspiracy to eliminate the idea of relation and replace it with relationship which is a pale shadow of the thing itself. Your wife, your children, parents, grandparents, your cousin and so on are relations. You may treat one another with care and love; you may treat one another with disrespect or you may altogether disregard one another, but you remain relations one to another like it or not and that does not easily change. St. Paul thought relations to be so permanent in this life that he frequently compares them to the members of one’s own body, as in hands or eyes. Relations come to an end with the same pain, grief and anguish that a member of one’s body, as in an eye, is made no longer a member of one’s body. (Ephesians 5:21-33; Ephesians 5: 31; I Corinthians 12:12-26; Matthew 5:29-30; Matthew 19:4-6)