Jesus replied: Philip, I have been with you for a long time. Don't you know who I am? If you have seen me, you have seen the Father. How can you ask me to show you the Father? – John 14:9
Perhaps nothing is so frustrating as straining to be understood and the person you want to connect with just doesn’t get it. Several months ago, a dear friend and I got into an hours-long disagreement about how we perceive the world. Eventually we uncovered that we didn’t even mean the same things when we used even basic words. This week we are spending time together again, and he brought up that conversation. “I’ve thought of that conversation many times,” he remarked, “and I still don’t get how you could possibly see the world that way.”
The distance such basic missed connections creates can be enormous and painful. Today, I visited a black history museum in a small Southern city. Its exhibits included receipts for poll taxes, photos of civic leaders who battled segregation, and clippings from black-owned newspapers. I was reminded again that this community of hope and strength which endured – and endures – pervasive systemic and personal oppression is one that I may learn about and appreciate, but that I still do not know, do not understand from the inside-out. I don’t “get it.”
God, in Jesus Christ, identifies with all of us from the inside-out. Jesus is the exalted one who took the form of a slave and was willing to suffer a humiliating, painful death. The Spirit of God not only sees all of us but participates with all of us, grieving in our suffering, mourning for our sin, rejoicing at our feeble but brave efforts to resist evil and follow Christ. The folks least like me, God sees and knows them, from the inside-out. Unlike me, Jesus “gets it.” Maybe that is why it is so hard sometimes for me to get Jesus. We can spend years at his feet, but until we join Jesus as he feasts with the ones we don’t get, we will never get him either.
Let us pray:
Unknown God, guide us into a more perfect knowledge of you as you guide us into a more perfect love for our neighbor. Give us grace that we may know you and one another inside-out. Amen.
Tim Holm is a former high school teacher and pursuing an MDiv from Duke Divinity School. He has only had to bribe his way through a Russian airport twice.