Bear Each Other's Alienation
Grapes grow in clusters, wild geese fly in flocks, fish swim in schools, and people live in community. An unseen vine draws us to one another, affirming and preserving life. Even those who choose to travel alone discover a deep-rooted need to connect with others in their solitude.
How absurd it is to realize we are created to live and flourish in community yet so many of us find ourselves alienated—lost and alone in a crowd of people. In Thomas Merton’s Midsummer Diary he writes, “As long as a single person is lost I am lost . . . The way one begins to make sense out of life is taking upon oneself the lostness of everyone.”
Robert Hudson, in his biography on Merton, The Monk’s Record Player, draws a parallel between St. Paul’s command to “bear ye one another’s burdens,” and Merton’s call for us to bear each other’s alienation. Hudson writes, “One person’s alienation is everyone’s, and Merton saw our existential distance from God and each other as the result of humanity’s deep–seated inauthenticity: sin.”
In the Gospel of John, Jesus has an intimate conversation with his closest friends. Shortly before his execution—a time when Jesus most certainly felt the pangs of alienation and aloneness—he reminded his friends to abide in him, to stay connected to God, and to bear the fruit of love.
I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit . . . As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love . . . My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.”
Jesus gave his life as an expression of God’s love for humanity. Through his sacrificial love, God made a way to overcome “humanity’s deep–seated inauthenticity.” Our hearts can now be reconciled to God and to one another. We are forgiven and free. We are free to live in community with the Triune God and to connect authentically with the people of God. If we respond to the invitation and abide with the lover of our souls we will produce much fruit and bear each other’s alienation.
10/7/2021 10:42:08 am
In reading this I am reminded of the alienation of the Lepers during the time of Christ and how Christ walked among them and touched them. Fast forward to now with the quarantining, social distancing and mask wearing. I wonder, what would Jesus say or do?,
Alisa Lynn Terrell
10/7/2021 08:04:03 pm
My God all the suffering that the world has endured in 2020 led me to believe that God wanted everyone of us individually to seek him and he is slowly healing because those that wasn't seeking his face they are now True Believers
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Larry Stoess is an author, public speaker, and urban church planter. He loves telling stories about how dreaming with God will empower people to make old and broken things new again. Larry and a band of friends founded the Church of the Promise in Louisville's Portland neighborhood; The Table, a pay-what-you-can community café; and Promise Housing Plus, a non-profit construction company. He has written about their experience of dreaming with God in his new book: Think Red.