God with skin

Christianity is a lived reality, not just an idea.

It is also something shared. Faith is a communal notion. It was never intended that we be individual ivory towers of righteousness. Rather, we are made strong in community with others whose gifts and strengths augment our own; where our weaknesses are rendered small and insignificant in light of the strengths of those around us who also name the name of Christ. This is about that – the Body of Christ, or as Ronald Rolheiser says, “God with skin.”

At times, our bodies work well. At other times, not so well. For example, we may be on the mend from a broken leg but still suffer migraine headaches. Or perhaps we suffer from rheumatoid arthritis but our minds are keen and sharp, providing clarity and wisdom for others.

When two friends know each other intimately they share life and joy even when they hold to very different views on topics. A husband and wife will often finish each others’ sentences. They think as one. They act as one. They live as one. Two old lovers can sit silently in front of the fireplace, he with pipe and paper, she with pillow, knitting and the cat on their lap and say everything that needs to be said without speaking a word. They say everything without a sound. Their relationship has been forged in the crucible of life and experience and suffering and overcoming and failure and time. Its richness is seen in the ability to simply be in the presence of the other without pretense or embarrassment or expectation.

At certain periods in our relationships, be they childhood friendships, a husband or a wife, or spiritual kin in the family of Jesus, there will be times of celebrating newness. A child is born – we celebrate a new life. What kind of parent would we be if we never rejoiced in the little successes of our children? Two people who, unknowingly perhaps, sought for each other for many years finally meet, fall in love and are united in marriage – we joyfully celebrate their new union. What kind of spouse would we be if we never voiced our appreciation and love for the one who shares life with us? A close friend whose chronic disease is finally brought under some measure of control and we see them laugh for the first time in years – we celebrate new life. A young woman dogged by years of career failure finds her niche in a new job discovered “by accident” – we celebrate her newly resurrected self-awareness and pride of place. What kind of local church would we be if we never took time to champion the selfless efforts of our brothers and sisters?

What indeed.

In the name of the “God with skin”…

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