by Rev. Dr. Arthur Chang
When we are not fiercely wearing our blinders and breastplate of individualism, a strange maturity tends to overtake us. It is like Saul of Tarsus on his way to Jerusalem to persecute the Jesus followers when he was struck off his horse by a heavenly light. He then heard the voice of Jesus asking why he was persecuting
him. Individualism often . appears to be persecuting wholeness.
To awaken to wholeness is to realize we are living in a relational universe where God needs us, as we need God
and each other. “We are sons and daughters of God, but do not know it,” said the great medieval Christian mystic, Meister Eckhart. This is reminiscent of Hermes Trismegistus saying, “As in heaven, so on earth”, or Jesus declaring, “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
Jesus grasped the importance of relationship over individualism most clearly, when he said, “What does it profit a man to gain the world and lose his soul?” We may interpret this as “What does it profit a man to have power and not to have love?”
Love is a feeling of connection, our sense of aliveness—wholeness. That connection is the only thing that can sustain the commitment to care for each other.
We may agree that although Moses is reported as parting the Red Sea, striking the rock to give water to the thirsty Israelites, and leading his tribe to freedom, we may agree none of these was his best. Moses’ most magnificent contribution was giving the people a guideline for relationship. The guide was the Ten Commandments for good or spiritual relationship.
Jesus summarized the ten commandments as Love—“Love God and Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Paul also grasped the full spiritual vitality of love. He said, “If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:2)
St. Augustine followed, saying “…love and do what you want.” He knew that one who loves would never wish to hurt, but to help; that he would not wish to wound, but to heal.
Writer and theologian, Mike Yaconelli, spoke of spirituality this way. He said, “Spirituality is not a formula; it is not a test. It is a relationship. Spirituality is not about competency; it is about intimacy. Spirituality is not about perfection; it is about connection. The way of the spiritual life begins where we are now—in the mess of our lives.”
Empathy is not an idea. It is a feeling—an experience. It is, as our Native Americans say, to “Walk a mile in another man’s moccasins.” We learn to put ourselves in the place of another to see how he or she feels. Then, we act with a kindness that we would desire for ourselves.
My emphasis is our relationship with each other, or our “neighbor,” as Moses said. Our relationship with God includes the unfathomable vastness of the universe itself. Because the universe is exactly as it, we are as we are We can sense and feel the Sacred Presence that is forever putting options before us for us to fulfill the life we are living at the level we choose.