Something Greater than Our Selves

September 22, 2012 § 1 Comment

“God’s design for human flourishing cannot be satisfied in isolation. In a broken, fragmented world, the church is called to be the firstfruits of a new creation by embodying a reconciled community.”

James K.A. Smith, Desiring the Kingdom

This week I was struck by an unexpected dynamic that has swelled in our region. There is a thrill in the air in Baltimore. For the first time in 15 years, the Orioles, Baltimore’s Major League Baseball team is in the Pennant race. You need to know that this does something good to a city and region. The Orioles have captured the hearts and imaginations of the region. And let me tell you, there is nothing more fulfilling than hating the Yankees, as a community!

Last week we took our church staff to an Orioles game – a day game. Here we were, at the threshold of the city, a magnificent day, and in the most beautiful baseball stadium in country (Cambden Yards is unmatched in beauty, design and character), and tens of thousands came to share in the passion.

Following the game (a victorious fourteen-inning thriller) elated fans exited the park, slapping hands, shouting, ‘Go O’s!’ and feeling part of something greater than themselves.

The thing is that we were not designed to be alone. We are pack animals. Or put more tastefully, we were created to live in relationship. And we most thrive when we do. That was the core damage of the fall in the Garden. Relationships were severed. Two people designed to live in God’s presence chose to hide – from Him, and from one another.

It doesn’t have to be marriage, though that is a good thing. And we don’t have to be members of the same church (but if you’re looking, I know a great one you can consider). That isn’t the point.

The point is that to be alienated is to swim against the current of our intended state of being. To live outside of community is to short-circuit something within that makes us truly human. Remember? ‘It is not good for man to be alone’ – Genesis 2:18.

Yet ibeside us, then it only seems to follow that we have every reason to build impenetrable walls of protection around ourselves. Why risk further injury?

There’s no getting around it – We were created for relationship – with God and with other unfinished ones like ourselves – people who, like us, have been ‘damaged by the fall.’ And I suspect that in our most honest of moments, each would admit that, past the self-protective layers of rhetoric and isolation, we long to be loved and embraced. We long for someone who cares enough to break through. Because we know that our yearnings are deeper than our facades of resistance.

I love how the writer of Hebrews captures this relational need in the first two verses of his twelfth chapter. There is no ‘me’ in it. It is about ‘we’ being surrounded by that ‘great cloud of witnesses.’ It is about ‘us’ running ‘with perseverance.’ It is ‘a race marked out for us.’ And together we ‘fix our eyes on Jesus.’

Sometimes the Church can be so concerned with personal holiness that it breeds an oppressed community of terrified, isolated individuals who are made to feel like spiritual failures for saying, ‘I can’t do it on my own.’ Why wouldn’t people hide from that?

Well you need to know something: I can’t do it on my own.

And neither can you.

Let’s get over it. Together.

Because at the heart of our Faith is Jesus.

We need Him. Together.

That’s really good news.

Go O’s!


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