The nature of our relationship with God lies at the heart of all religion. In the long history of organised religion this has been understood in a variety of ways. Those religions that have left the clearest mark on human history are those that have built the grandest monuments or ruled the largest empires. Those religions which have taken a lowlier path have left fewer clues for historians to note.
Christianity has certainly left its mark on the world since it joined forces with the Roman Empire in the 4th century. Western history is as thickly strewn with Christian empires as the western landscape is with Christian monuments. However, the central figure of Christianity - Jesus - does not fit this grand profile at all.
Jesus did not claim any land, rule any people, build any monuments, fight any battles or write any books. He seemed quite disinterested in politics, law and ritual. He lived a simple life, focusing on those things that leave their mark in the daily lives of ordinary people, not in physical or social landscape.
When it comes to the nature of relationship that Jesus sought to have with the people around him, he did not live an elevated or separated life. He simply lived among the people he taught, as their neighbour and their friend. Just hours before his death Jesus reminded his core followers: "I do not call you servants ... but I have called you friends.”
Friendship should rightly be the defining relationship of Christianity - friendship that spans different cultures, different beliefs and different lifestyles; friendship that unites people with their neighbours and also with their God. There is absolutely no place for hierarchy in the life and teaching of Jesus. The true mark of Christianity is good friendship.