ONE ANOTHERING…”Willing to be Known”
In the 10th Chapter of John, Jesus said something profound: “I know my sheep and am known of mine.” I think these words summarize the entire ministry of Jesus. He made it a point to know his sheep personally, what they were, as well as what they could become. He said about Nathaniel, “Behold an Israelite in whom there is no guile.” And Nathaniel was surprised, “How do you know me?” And he said, “Your buddy Philip called you and I saw you under the fig tree.”
Nicodemus went to Jesus under the cover of night. But Jesus knew the man behind the questions. He sensed the treachery that lay like a dark pool at the base of Judas’ soul. He even knew the needs of a crowd. He saw through our masks and poses we try to hide behind. In Ch. 2 John says, “Jesus did not trust himself to them…because he knew what was in man.” Whew! Jesus knows his sheep like no other before or since.
But an even greater wonder is the 2nd part: I am known of mine.” One distinctive of Jesus’ ministry was mutuality. His conversations are not lectures. He had little interest in projecting an image or falsifying his experiences. When he was hungry, he didn’t hide it. When he was sad tears filled his eyes. Imperial leaders have restrained their anger. But when Jesus got mad, he pitched a fit in the temple. His disappointments were not veiled. When he was happy his joy wasn’t suppressed. There was no posturing with Jesus. He was transpicuous, every inch alive. He was a man unafraid of being known. “…my sheep know me.”
By comparison so many people are reluctant to be knowable to each other. Rather some folks prefer to be unknown or even mis-known than known. Heck we might risk being doxed! Technology has come up with myriads of ways we can hide in our own little cocoons. Maybe Facebook is one place we tell too much! Cell phones can be a way to hide if we become too dependent on them. We’ve developed hostile and elaborate ways of keeping one another at arm’s length. Drugs? Brutality? Bullying? Resistance? We can’t let others know us; we might face some untoward consequences.
One of the best aspects of our church is it’s a place where you can “let it all hang out” and still be accepted. Where we can identify with one another’s different journeys. Where we can laugh at our accents! The church isn’t a parade ground where we strut our virtues before the world. It’s more like a hospital where we’re all mortally infected, but for the grace of God. “I know my sheep and they know me.”
Experts remind us that some people are extroverts and other introverts. And we might add perverts! But there’s something more going on here than the inherent personality traits. It seems to me that a willingness to be known is about integrity of being. How can anything positive get done unless we’re willing to be who we are. That’s not easy to do in some churches. This church is not like that at all. And that’s good news for “the one to come.”
If a young preacher aspiring for the pulpit were to ask me “What do you look for when you’re candidating for a church?” I’d tell them, “will they let you be who you are?” Only then will you have a possibility of it being a good fit. We used to sing a song in Sunday School, it’s not in our hymnal, called ” I would be true, for there are those who trust me.” God knows we could use a lot more of that.
People resist being known most of all because knowledge is power, and it opens us to being taken advantage of. Not allowing others to have power over us, it’s safer to remain unknown. Not Jesus. “I know my sheep and they know me.”
We’d be making a good beginning today toward a better world tomorrow if we too could have the self-awareness of Jesus: “I know the people in my life, and they know me.”
To be honest before God and each other in vulnerability is the essence of love. Loving somebody takes guts, because it leads to unilateral disarmament. Love is vulnerable like that. It can be taken – sometimes as far as a cross!
Today’s Prayer: Dear Lord: Forgive our reluctance to be before others what we really are, for our fondness of role playing. Free us from the misguided fear of honesty. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.