Sometimes it is healthy to review your fundamentals. Who am I? What are my core values? How does that relate to everything else?
My basic orientation comes out of a lifetime of Christian practice, but I hope what I write today makes connections with people from other contexts as well.
Who am I? Here is my fundamental identity: I am a human being and a child of God. I believe every human being is created in the image of God (Genesis 1).
Like every other human being. I am intimately connected with all of humanity, incorporated into the great web of life. We all breathe the same air, stand on the same earth and hope for fullness of life. Our similarities transcend any secondary differences of race, gender, nation, family or economic circumstances. I am a part of the whole.
Jesus frequently called himself "Son of Man," alternately translated the "Human One." I look to Jesus as my model for being human. Jesus was one with humanity. He offered his gifts of healing, feeding and acceptance to all people, giving the same gifts to those who were foreigners and enemies of his religion as he gave to his own people. The apostle Paul articulated the implications of this inclusive spirit: "There is neither Jew nor Gentile, slave nor free, male nor female." (Galatians 3:28)
We are all one, children of God. I believe that is our fundamental identity. When I am at my healthiest, I stay conscious of that identity and connectedness.
What are my core values? The simple answer is "love." To love is to give oneself for the good of others. "God is love" may be the simplest description of the Divine (1 John 4:8). I believe love is the fundamental human value, the good fruit of our connectedness.
Love is the bonding nature of reality and the defining quality of healthy community.
When Jesus was asked, what is the basic law for the human community, he gave a simple answer: Love. Love God, and love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22). I am told that every religion and every culture has its own version of the Golden Rule, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."
So, my fundamental identity and value is that I am a child of God grounded in eternal love. Just like everyone else. That's good news.
The bad news is I lose consciousness of my identity and grounding. Self-centeredness and fear can blind me.
It seems to me self-centeredness blinds us to the reality of our fundamental union with God and others. Whenever we act out of self-centeredness we violate and compromise the equal standing of other human beings. We treat people like things. We use them rather than love them. We divide what is whole.
Our brokenness becomes even more toxic and potentially violent whenever we add fear to our self-centeredness. When we feel threatened, or whenever we create a narrative of fear and threat, humans can rationalize the most horrible behaviors toward the "other."
Maybe that is why Scripture has 365 verses with the message "Fear not; do not be afraid; be not afraid." One verse for every day of the year. We need reminding, because peddlers of fear abound, and they will tear humanity apart if we lose consciousness of the connectedness of human identity and the core value of love.
Love spreading outward into a wider social context is justice, often translated "righteousness" in Scripture. To do right is to do justice.
In a parable Jesus described righteousness and justice this way: to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, care for the sick, visit the prisoner (Matthew 25).
The test of justice is always "the little ones" and "the least of these" -- the poor, the weak, and the outcast; the widow, orphan and alien.
When his disciples sought to marginalize children, Jesus told them to bring the children to him. Jesus saw in children an image of the Kingdom of God. If we love "the little ones" and "the least of these," we will do justice.
"What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?" (Micah 6:8)
Humility transcends self-centeredness; love casts out fear.
These are the values and identity that motivate me. They are a lens for sorting the conflicting identities and values of the world. They are a place to stand.
Commentary on 06/26/2018
Print Headline: Love and identity