Going Deeper: One

5iRrkKEoTOne of our deepest human longings is for intimacy. We hope to find it in marriage. Perhaps we have found it with a friend or group of friends. We long for it in various communities of which we are a part, including our church communities. We may even long for this with God but not be sure whether such closeness is actually possible. And when we find that intimacy, we often describe it using the language of one–the two become one, being of one mind and heart, being at one with each other, oneness with God. It is the oneness not of losing one’s sense of self but of knowing and being known.

This past Sunday, our Pastor Rich preached on John 17:1-26. There was one section of this which yielded an insight I’ve wanted to go deeper into this week, found in verses 20-23:

20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

I’ve often focused on John 13:35 that says,  “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” What I’ve paid less attention to is that our ability to love for each other, to be one with each other is rooted in a deeper oneness. Jesus prays that we might share in the oneness he has with the Father, and it is by this that we are also at one with our fellow Christians. Rich talked about this incredible thing that we’ve been brought into the life of loving oneness between the Father and Son and that our oneness with each other flows out of this oneness. Intimacy with Jesus is the fuel for intimacy with each other.

The challenge for me is that I try to do the “oneness thing” on my own strength and what these verses say is that my oneness with my community in Christ comes from being in Christ who is in the Father. The best way I can nurture “the beloved community” with God’s people is to know and accept and embrace my belovedness. Because of Jesus, God is for me. Because of Jesus God loves me in spite of all my faults. God loves me just because He does, and invites me to be as close to him as Jesus and the Father have been forever.

Because this is so, I don’t have to change the things I don’t like in others to be one in Christ with them, or conform to the expectations of others. We simply have to love each other just because. I’ve found myself loving people I didn’t like or wouldn’t have chosen to hang around with. I’ve found myself loving people I disagreed with.

Rich talked about the beautiful thing that happens when we are one with God and each others in these ways–“more and more people, as they see our unity, are drawn into the divine community that we ourselves are a part of. ”

One of the things I love about our church is that it is this crazy place where people who otherwise would not be in each other’s lives are learning to love each other and anyone else who walks in the door in practical and life-giving ways. We don’t do it perfectly, at least I don’t. But we don’t give up. That is the power of One!

A Healthy View of Health

Last week, I posted reflections on our pastor’s message on the Christian in Sickness under the title “A Healthy Attitude Toward Sickness“. This past Sunday he spoke on the Christian in Health.  One of the assertions he made at the beginning caught my attention. This was that, when we consider things on a global scale, health is not the standard experience of human existence, but rather sickness in some form or other. Instances of full, abundant health are the welcome exception. Some of the sicknesses may be chronic, such as inadequate nutrition or chronic parasitic afflictions or malaria. In other cases, infections or illnesses readily treated through our advanced medical care go untreated and may threaten one’s life or quality of life in serious ways.

Many of us tend to enjoy health for relatively long stretches of time, where we begin to assume this is the norm and a right rather than a gift. This was brought home to me recently when I was bitten by a dog tick in my backyard, and spent two weeks of watchfulness for a possible serious illness that could result from that bite. I’ve spent the past 24 years working in that yard and this never happened before. Several years back, I was running half marathons, and in the midst of this contracted cellulitis in my right arm that got so bad I was hospitalized and put on intravenous antibiotics because other antibiotics were not working. Had these not been available or worked, I’m not sure I’d be writing this blog!

Rich’s point was not to get us to live in dread fear of the next looming sickness but rather in recognizing health as a gift to respond in worship, service, and friendship. God is the giver of all good gifts (James 1:17) and when we enjoy health, thanksgiving and worship make sense. We are also healthy to serve, including serving the sick, and healthy in order to enter into community “just because”, rather than because there is some need we or others have. Sometimes it is just a joy to hang out and enjoy good things together.

As I’ve reflected on all this, I’m struck with one further thought about health. When we are healthy we have some sense that “this is how life was meant to be”, and I believe that is right and not to be denied. Sickness, suffering, and death were not God’s original intention for human beings, nor are they the ultimate end for those who trust in Christ. Our moments of health are glimpses of our once and future destiny and pointers to the new life already at work in us, even while we deal with the physical decline of these present bodies (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).

In many areas of the Christian life we share our future hope by bringing it into the present. We look forward to God’s peace where the lion and lamb will lay down with each other and we pursue peace. We look forward to God’s people from every nation gathered in worship and seek to reach those from every nation with Christ’s gospel. We believe in a renewed creation in the new Jerusalem, and so we seek to tend God’s present creation toward that day. And similarly, it seems to me that our belief in new, resurrection bodies no longer subject to illness, pain and death should move us to the work of not just comforting and caring for the sick, but as much as possible to not only alleviate but to prevent the suffering of illness, and particularly for those who lack these resources. For example, things as cheap as mosquito nets, and low cost water purification systems are saving the lives of thousands of young children. I work with young, mostly healthy graduate students, many doing biomedical-related research. I see this work as an act of worship providing means to extend God’s gift of health to many more people.

So I would suggest that one further way we might think about the gift of health is as an opportunity to seek the blessing of that gift for others who don’t have the same access to it as do we. Along with health, God gives gifts of expertise, skill, financial resources and time. How might we use these to extend the gift of health and the experience of the goodness of God to others?

This post also appears on our church’s Going Deeper Blog.