A problem for me is that there are several levels to relationships I have with people, and I want higher level relationships with more people.
The highest level is where love is reciprocated and there is a unity of wishes and purpose, both conscious and unconscious. Obviously there is a spectrum to this, with Chris at the top end, but also the majority of people I know through Bicester Community Church as well as a substantial bunch of guys outside that body. We willingly line ourselves up, and where there are significant issues, we'll work them through.
Next down are those with whom there is a friendship/love relationship but not necessarily a common purpose and understanding, although no specific disagreement either. I can relax and enjoy such company, make and receive comments where we don't line up, but not feel a need to watch my back or carefully monitor what I say.
Then there are those that do seem to be part of the family of God, yet with whom there is a feeling that says "there's something not right: watch yourself and what you say or agree with". I cannot relax and I frequently feel I cannot align myself with these people. It is as though my acceptance of a close relationship automatically means I must embrace their values and aims too. In this group are those Christians with a liberal theology, and to a lesser degree those of other faiths (I suspect the 2 are connected - maybe I'll follow that up sometime). Also in this category are the 'hard right' conservatives of a flavour that says ONLY my theology is right - how d'you measure up, boy? I tend to struggle less with them because often their basic beliefs are reasonably sound but their hearts seem to have missed it, whereas with the liberals often their hearts are right but their theology is stuffed, and I care more about the heart.
There is a 4th group - those who are not part of God's kingdom. Relationships here are altogether different. I can care deeply for these people as equals, yet there is not the same sense of family, of belonging to each other, of being joined.
I should mention BTW that I NEVER consciously band relationships like this, but it is easier to break things down instead of trying to describe a spectrum.
Some of this thinking comes out of my life on the WWW and conversations I've had through blogging. Some of it comes from reading. Some from plain wondering why I feel the way I do about certain people, yet differently about others. I have mild suspicions about the theology behind this thinking, but as it's a development and not cast in stone I'll just run with it for now. My wish - is that those in group 2 could move up to group 1, group 3 to group 2, and especially group 4 to group 1 (from experience, that is an easier move than 3 to 2).
And some of this comes out of what I see as a worrying trend - the Christian faith as worked out in some parts of the world to abandon a sound faith and strike out on its own. I see liberal theology as being the next real crisis point for the church. Not that we want to go round burning the heretics, but we also want to see that it doesn't deviate so far away from sound teaching that those who might otherwise be saved instead are denied saving faith in Jesus. That would be real heresy, and that IS scary.