â€œBut the real fear is what we would do if we took off our masks and discovered that we had no faces?â€
Iâ€™ve been reading a book called The Transforming Friendship by James Houston in which he puts that question. I think it has much to say—this question, specifically— to me as a Christ-follower. Do I really know who I am, that is, do recognize my own face? What qualities define me as a part of a distinctive race of people who have chosen to follow Jesus? He said that we were different from other peoples and that he was going to leave us in the world, but we were not to be â€œofâ€ it—born for eternity, stranded in time.
That puts me, and others like me, between two worlds, the world of time and space and the world of eternity.
What if I awakened tomorrow and, during the night, I had changed genetically so that I could live without eating? Out of habit I would probably continue to consume food because I always had and had learned to enjoy itâ€¦too much, truth be told. I might still visit McDonalds, and snack on ice cream, the manna of my world. There would be a freedom available to me (and quite a financial savings!) that I might not be aware of unless somehow I found out that I had changed. I would continue to rely on food when that reliance was really unnecessary.
Iâ€™ve come to wonder if something like that hasnâ€™t happened to me as a follower of Jesus. Perhaps itâ€™s happened to most Christ-followers. By connecting at a spiritual level with Jesus I have changed in a fundamental way. I donâ€™t have to rely on the systems, institutions and mindsets of the world any more. I am secure in an eternal relationship with God so I neednâ€™t fear for my life. Jesus has assured me that I donâ€™t have to worry about what I will eat or what I will wear so money ought not burden my soul. My citizenship is not here on earth so the chaos of politics doesnâ€™t have to jangle in my head. Father has invited me to become a part of a living community of others who have also experienced this change in their â€œDNAâ€ so my social needs are also met.
Perhaps Father has invited me, and those like me, to stand in front of the mirror, take off the mask and become familiar with a new face. There is really nothing to fear in this. I do have a face because I have a Father. There should be an obvious resemblance. Thatâ€™s what I want, anyway.
Iâ€™m going to keep thinking about this, but Iâ€™ll sign off for now with a favorite quote. It gets at the core or what Iâ€™m pondering: a community whose members have discovered their faces. The quote is from Jim Wallis (Agenda for a Biblical People, I think):
“The greatest influence on a person’s life will be that institution or set of institutions on which the person feels most dependent for survival and support. As long as most Christians are more dependent upon the powers and principalities of the world for their survival and security than they are upon the Christian community, the church cannot do anything other than conform to the world. We must see through biblical eyes that our lives and our very spiritual survival, personally, economically, and politically, must be centered in the Christian community. The community of the local church must become the most important and central corporate reality of our lives, the daily environment out of which our lives are lived, the fellowship of people that sustains and supports us. The church must represent a body of people who have committed their lives to one another in Christ, a communion of faith and trust in which everything is shared, a place where our lives and society are seen through the eyes of biblical faith, a corporate sign of the transforming power of the gospel kingdom in the world.”