Currently, we find ourselves in a world where all kinds of encounters are possible. Unlike prior generations, connections can be accomplished with rapid speed. We can choose to fly or drive to places, or we can meet one another virtually through a myriad of digital devices at our disposal. No place is too far or out of sight for us to engage and encounter.
Similarly, when we think about the number of public spaces that bring us together, there are plenty of parks, cinemas, dining areas and stadiums designed to hold thousands of people at once. We share public spaces for meals, entertainment, play and work. And yet, ironically, we seemed to be growing farther apart from one another. The nearness that comes from being in a common public space doesn’t always translate into moments of greater hospitality, openness and trust in one another.
In fact, the opposite is often the case. In our common spaces, we keep to ourselves, avoid prolonged eye contact with strangers and shy away from appearing “too friendly” to others who are not in our immediate social circles. Moreover, when we see the difficult and painful experiences of others, we tell ourselves that it is best to mind own business and keep on walking. Tragically, the prevalent ugliness of violence in our neighborhoods and cities only reinforces our mindset of retreat and separation — leaving us a bit deflated and cynical about our common lot.
Nevertheless, we affirm that, amidst this worldly paradox, the human spirit yearns for community. For the followers of Christ, this yearning and urgency for human nearness means a willingness to embrace hospitality, openness and communion, especially with the stranger. This is precisely because our thoughts, attitudes and actions must conform to the mind and heart of Christ, who sets the pattern for all our encounters: “The spiritual person, on the other hand, can assess the value of everything, and that person’s value cannot be assessed by anybody else. For: who has ever known the mind of the Lord? Who has ever been his advisor? But we are those who have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2: 15-16).
It is by having mind and heart of Christ, then, that we can better discern, build and embrace the body of Christ present in us and in those around us. In fact, no amount of worldly knowledge can compare to the clarity that comes from God’s wisdom; for “God’s folly is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength” (1 Corinthians 1:25).
It is our nearness to and communion with the one who gives His body for us—the Lord— that makes possible our unity. It is the Lord who ultimately models for us what it means to be one with and for others: “Now Christ’s body is yourselves, each of you with a part to play in the whole” (1 Corinthians 12:27).
There is no better place than our current social and political circumstances to carry out our embrace of communion, and to play our part in building up the whole in the manner of the Spirit — each one of us, according to the gifts we have received (Ephesian 4:7; Romans 12:6). “When you give, you should give generously from the heart…let your feelings of deep affection for one another come to expression and regard others as more important than yourself” (Romans 12: 8,10).
F. Javier Orozco
First published August 12, 2022 in the St. Louis Review