How Connected Are We?
Readings like today's leave me unsettled and alarmed. They do so on a couple of levels. On one level, I am undone by the harsh demarcations that are seemingly being imposed on the difference between the righteous and the unrighteous. The righteous are going to be protected. They might even prosper. The unrighteous will be exposed, and will assuredly face their destruction. All of this is happening before the throne of a god who seems to be performing some kind of celestial "eenie-meenie-minee-moe" on the heads of the people who have been called into Covenant with the Divine. Do right by the will of God, and you will live. Do wrong, and you will be consumed.
John attempts to console us, by assuring us that because we are born from God in Christ we have God's love and protection. Because we ARE in God, then we cannot ever find ourselves so very far from God that we are totally lost. The yoke of that relationship calls for vigilance, but with faith and discipline we can preserve it in community. In other words, STAY CONNECTED to God and to your fellow believer. Even if you stumble, you will be OK. And yet, the last words of the Epistle? "Beware of worship to false idols!" Assured of God's love for us because we are in Christ, we are still reminded that we all walk on a razor's edge, suspended over God's disfavor. That sort of connection to God seems ultimately unsustainable. It's like an addict resolving NOT to do the thing that feeds their addiction by their own will, when it is their will that is broken by their addiction. It won't work if we are forced to rely on our own strength.
But how do we tap into the resources of the Divine, so that the strength to prevail against temptation is actually available to us?
I think that strength is found in a more mature connection to God founded not on the ideal of a pleasant life of advantage (because we are born again), but rather to a humble embrace of all our shadows (by God's love redeemed) and all our virtue (by God's discipline inspired). Ezekiel and his prophetic experiences provides dramatic and stark illustrations of what that kind of life might look like, if only the people and their leaders would turn from their sins and follow God through that little hole in the wall, seeking in exile restoration to health, wholeness and holiness of life. John's good news is that God has already accomplished that restoration in the person of the Christ, but our part of that connection requires of us a submission to life in community, a life committed to reconciliation with the other. It all boils down to the free choices given to us at the dawn of time and space. Will we choose to live a connected life? When we fall from that connection, will we then be willing to repent and return?