By Bill Malcomson
In my previous blog I spoke of living now in the kingdom of God. In this blog I will talk about the liberating experience of oneness as it applies to our living with our fellow beings, and, indeed, all being. In my next blog I will talk about the liberating experience of oneness with the One.
First Peoples, indigenous people, experience a great sense of oneness with all that lives and with all who have lived before them. They also believe that this oneness survives death. They sense a oneness with the earth, with animal life, with plants, with ancestors, with sun and moon, and so on. This experience of oneness with all that is goes against the idea that we are to dominate others, dominate other forms of life. Domination leads to ecological disaster. Domination leads to the classifying of some forms of life as of less importance than others. It leads to tribalism, to the separating of people into groups of various worth. The liberating experience of oneness is anti-dominance. As the apostle Paul said, nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (I would say nothing can separate us from oneness in Spirit), not life, nor death, nor things present nor things to come, nor principalities or powers.
"Life is fragile, Handle it with care" was on a poster that used to hang in an office I occupied. We are to interact with all of life with great care. The liberating power of oneness involves identifying with all persons. Walking in another's shoes. Not "there but for the grace of God go I," but "there go I." Jesus identified with all kinds of people. With poor folks, with Pharisees, with women, with children, with those oppressed by powers, with enemies and friends. He ate and drank with people with whom he was not supposed to according to the customs of his religion. He asked his followers to live such a liberated life, but it was hard for them to do so until after his death and they sensed his compassionate spirit within them. Why care about people who appear to be different from us? Because they are us and we are them. We share a common humanity. We walk in each other's shoes, because they are also our shoes. We are the oppressed and the oppressor.
People who have served in combat in the military will often speak of a "band of brothers" (which now includes sisters as well). When they are in danger, in combat, in a continual life-threatening existence, they carry out their mission, not so much because of their commitment to the government's purpose in putting them there, but because they feel at one with their brothers and sisters who are facing the same threats. They feel their oneness, their desire to save each other, no matter what. Often, when they return home, they wish they could feel that oneness in ordinary life. And they can, but not always with the urgency that occurs in a life-threatening situation.
Many of us have been in religious communities where we hear or speak of concerns for the health of each other in the community. Why should you or I care if someone in the community whom we hardly know asks for prayer or concern? What binds us together? We are not related in a nuclear family, we are not on a committee together, we hardly know each other at all. But there is something in the nature of being in a community that tells us that we are one. That we are worth paying attention to. That recognition of need matters. It is not so much that God loves us and we SHOULD love each other, as that we identify with others in need as we are in need. We cannot make it alone.
When you eat in a restaurant, do you ask for the name of the server and then call that person by that name? Not in order to get better service, but to make a connection, to refuse to accept the category of server and served as the only valid way of dealing with each other.
When you speak to the clerk in the super market, do you look at their name tag and say their name? Do you ask how things are going with them?
When you are sitting in a doctor's office do you ever interact with the person in the chair next to you?
It is not only a matter of being friendly, it is a matter of identifying with other human beings. It is experiencing the liberating power of oneness. We are free! We are one!
This blog includes thoughts from various contributors at Seattle First Baptist