I wrote this a few months back:
Goethe observed that we can’t see light; we can only perceive the way it illuminates objects. That’s how I sometimes think about experiencing God. Created in His image, He is revealed in the way we treat one another. Each interaction a firing neuron, God emerges from a nimbus cloud of humanity.
Lately, I’ve seriously been considering a certain thought. It’s not an original thought, but it’s a thought I can’t shake. It haunts me.
It’s also a thought that I can’t seem to articulate very well. So forgive me as it comes out in dribs and drabs.
If we take God at his word – that we’re all created in His image – then to know and delight in others is to know and delight in God Himself.
In Romans 12, Paul writes (in part)
For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another.
(Personally, I’ve always thought of myself as the appendix or possibly the spleen.)
We may all be created in the likeness of God, but it seems like we have unique contributions to make to “the kingdom”. We are all, in our own unique way, agents of reconciliation. We are simultaneously being restored and restoring – just as the fully human, fully divine Christ was restored from death on the cross and redeems humanity.
In our hyper-polarized world, it’s pretty easy to take the concept of “hate what is evil” as permission to disparage and dismiss those with ideologies contrary to our own. That’s simply wrongheaded. Those who would persecute me are also made in God’s image. They have a unique contribution to make to the kingdom.
I’m not saying that it’s OK to tolerate injustice. I don’t think that’s what “turn the other cheek” means. If we’re agents of reconciliation, we must work to end the abuses of humankind. Especially in the Church, prophetic voices are essential.
However, our rebukes have to come within the context of relationship. Christ admonishes us to love our enemies. It’s not right or good to look at others and only see our disagreement. Where do we see Jesus in the faces of our enemies? Do we dare imagine and enter into their pain; do we dare share their joy?
And I don’t think loving neighbors and enemies is the end of the story. I don’t think that’s “kingdom come”.
Perhaps delighting in others – even our enemies – leads to mutual transformation. I think by loving and being loved (or maybe even despised) by others we are changed. We are made more holy. By loving as Christ loved, we are sanctified through relationship.
This, I think, may be the path to shalom.
…To be continued…