What stands out as I read this text is the admonition not just to offer our lives as living sacrifice, but the fact this involves laying aside individualistic ways of thinking. Rather living as a person of God means recognizing my identity as wrapped up in, including in, the identity of others in the sacred community in which I find myself. This does not mean eradicating a sense of my own worth, but recognizing it is not all up to me. My future and the other in my midst’s future are intricately woven together, like threads on a multi-colored tapestry. I cannot get to my future by trampling underfoot their dignity, nor ignoring their need. I must make time and space for them in my life, and learn to work together with others even those that are trying.
For some this is easy, and perhaps the warning not to lose sight of our own gifts, our own identity, our own calling by this call to community mindedness must take precedence. We may be a body, but being a body means that who you are in your uniqueness – your race, your gender, your gender expression, your sexuality, your gifts, your passion, your experience, your joys – are irreplaceable. You must not let others needs and wants extinguish the blazing candle of who you are. Rather you, as you are, are needed for the other’s full flowering. This is even true of those whose way of relating to you sends the message that your brilliant light must be extinguished. The racist needs the people of other races than her or his own to discover their true humanity, for instance. But this is true in personal relationships too. The one whose way of relating would, left on its own, seek to smother your brilliant individualism needs your resistance to their smothering. Only by them learning to be themselves around others who are very distinct can they become fully alive; and only by you being able to be fully yourself without other’s extinguishing your life can you be fully alive.
Yet the opposite is also true. We can fall out of this into an individualism where we only thing about our needs, our goals, our passion, our group that we identify with. Yet we are one body mystically in the living Christ, so who I am cannot be complete without others – not just others like me, but others who are radically different in perspective, beliefs, experience, and identity.
Not a one of us has figured this out. I for one know I struggle in how to be fully myself and to fully support those folks I feel called to lift up that the world often seeks to squash, while also making space for others whose way of relating to me or to those I stand up with and speak up alongside can feel like dumping cold water buckets on other’s wavering torch light. Yet this is the call of the living Christ to each other.
It reminds me of a saying I heard from soldiers and veterans growing up in an army town – no one gets left behind. The truth of human community is that God created us for no one to be left behind. My own believe, based on the promise of all things being reconciled in Christ we see repeated in the New Testament, is that this is ultimately and cosmically true. God will not leave anyone behind to ultimate ruin but make room in divine patience for even judgment to be transformative so all people, and all creatures, can ultimately enter the reconciliation of all things God makes possible in Christ. If this is so, I have to continue to strive to be a person of healing and reconciliation in my own life. Thankfully this promise includes some peace for the ways in which this does not seem to always pan out: ultimately though I am to be an agent of reconciliation, the Reconciler who is Our Peace is not me. That Reconciler is the Living Christ. I can trust that ultimately if I strive to be this person of healing and peace, Christ can complete what I cannot. I can know though I do not yet see the fruit of my effort, I will see Christ complete it, whether here in time or in eternity.
Thanks be to God, who gives us that victory in Christ Jesus our Lord!