I talk about community a lot because I believe that the Christian church is all about creating community and the strength that brings to us. It follows after the tradition of the Hebrew people which was all about creating a safety net for people with guidelines to live by in community. Hebrew tradition set rules to live by which governed relationship, commonly called, The Ten Commandments, that governed how to live. First, said the rules, set yourselves right with that which is Sacred and then live right with those around you. Simple. Don’t cheat, lie, steal from, or murder your neighbors if you want to get along with them.
Humankind kind being what it is, nothing remained simple for long and so within a few generations there were 618 more rules which governed everything from how far one could walk on the Sabbath and still, back to the ten original rules, keep it ‘holy’, to money lending, i.e. don’t charge interest. All of these rules were intended to help people get along better with other people and thus with the Sacred. The rules prohibit actions by an individual that might cause division or that would separate one person from another. For example, if John was keeping the Sabbath holy by resting and his neighbor was walking his dog, if his neighbor’s dog walking were too involved it might appear as if he was not honoring the Sabbath and thus may be offensive, that is it became something that would divide or separate the two people, so there needed to be guidelines as to how far would be too far.
The one word that means “things that separate one from another” is “sin”.
Jesus devoted his life to teaching people how better to get along. Jesus came to wipe away the separating things and show people a path towards togetherness. One could say he died for the separations of others and if you think of it that way it really starts to make sense in a special way. His message was a healing message intended to bring people together, to bring peace, and to offer the joy of reconciliation through strengthening community. Share a meal with one another and do so in memory of me, he said. Build a bond with those you are with and let the bread be a symbol of being of one body.
Does the action you take, the thought you have, that ‘thing’ you do to or for another person, does it bring you closer in relationship, or lead to further separation. The extra change you get from the store clerk if she counts the money wrong, could lead to a deepening separation should you fail to return it. Our country is today suffering from ever increasing divisions among us. Divisions ‘in the name of’ Jesus are really more strongly ‘anti – saving’ than they are saving (remembering christos means the same as savior).
Growing up my grandmother would stay in the back bedroom at the cottage so she would not have to watch us go to the beach on Sunday afternoon because it was ‘sinful’ not to be honoring the Sabbath. “But the beach is a Sabbath (Sacred restful) place we would argue (teasingly at the time).” What led to separation (sin) in that circumstance was our disrespect of her values. Forgive me gram.
When we are making those larger choices in life, ending a relationship, starting new ones, teaching values to our children, even the positions we support in the political arena and the stands we take regarding economic issues, but especially when we are thinking about relationship issues, may the guide for life be this question.
What leads to more separation between people and what leads to greater togetherness?