“Indeed I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as refuse, in order that I may gain Christ.” Philippians 3:8

Yesterday I wrote of identity; how it is constituted by relations with others and finds its final fulfillment in Christ. This is why looking to community or family (the matrix of social relationships) for fulfillment is a problem. There is no question that human life is hardly worth living apart from others. And it is a rare person who can say they have too many friends. Normally, it is quite the opposite. But the close bonds of human relationships, no matter how many we may have and how satisfying they may be, do not bring fulfillment. In fact, community and family can actually get in the way of fulfillment, or promise a false fulfillment.

The plain truth is that human relationships at the very deepest level of the person cannot be ultimately fulfilling because even the deepest, most intimate of relationships cannot invade the solitude, the loneliness of the individual.

In recent decades we have seen the erosion of traditional forms of community which for hundreds of years supported and upheld human relations; national identity and institutions, a shared, remembered past, the community of the family, religious life. All these communal expressions are undergoing thorough revision at a frenzied pace. Part of the reason for this has to do with the simple fact that at a some level these expressions have simply not provided the fulfillment people are looking for. And since person hood is a social state of being, people grasp for new forms of community (political, social, racial, etc) in a desperate effort to find the combination that will bring fulfillment. But this will not work. For at its root, all the frenzied seeking is a search for fulfillment that is identical with ourselves…the selves we actually do not know. But we are quite unable to dethrone our assertive, tyrannical and Olympian selves from this effort. We even make our seeking after a God a project of self-fulfillment.

Fulfillment in this life is, finally, not a possibility. That is why we proclaim the good news of a divine redemption that is not synonymous with ourselves; a divine fulfillment that is given to us as a gift and not something we develop from within ourselves, our families and communities. We will not build the lasting structure of ultimate fulfillment on the old foundation of a dying world. This, in part, in a what the Apostle Paul came to see: it is not fulfillment that finally defines life, but loss.

But God has laid the foundation of a new world in Jesus Christ. That foundation is not a new political party, economic system or plan for a green environment. That foundation has been laid through the Cross and resurrection of Jesus, through the preaching of which God expresses His will to have mercy upon us that we might relate to the entire question of meaning and fulfillment in a new way, the way of God’s forgiveness and mercy. When this message reaches the heart, the quest for fulfillment on our shabby terms is put to rest. The living relation of faith, that connects us to the Living God, lifts the eyes of our hearts from the puzzling, annoying and frustrating inward gaze of self-seeking, to care and concern for the cluttered world and our fragmented neighbor; even as we await in all trust and hopefulness the fulfillment that God has promised in Christ.

May the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in

Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Published by Pastor Mark Anderson

Lutheran pastor, husband, dad, archaeology nut, serious blues guitarist and aspiring luthier.

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