From an early age, Americans can cultivate a world perspective where they exist in a bubble. This bubble is defensive in that it shields us from being affected by outside forces and influences, but it is also an inward way of existing. Nothing outside of my bubble should affect me, not my thinking, the way I act and conduct myself, or the way I feel. We see this bubble braininess in statements people make like, “I don’t pay attention to world news. I live in America.” Or the ever popular “What do I care?” The bane of my personal existence: “That doesn’t affect me.”
We live in an interconnected world, as interconnected people. No one is an island, and singing the Simon & Garfunkel song won’t make it so. Our culture of global humanity is such that what happens across the ocean can impact us here. We have intertwining economies. Philosophy and the flow of thought can travel where we ourselves will never set foot and ignite other thoughts and be a catalyst for action. That is exactly what happened when a colonist in the New World read thoughts put to paper by an Englishman, John Locke, who conceptualized the idea of the social contract and personal liberty. That colonist was Thomas Jefferson and he was affected by the writings of John Locke; he internalized them and produced the Declaration of Independence which definitely affects you if you’re a citizen of the United States. This is just one secular example.
I think about all those times I encounter someone who is living in a bubble. They just don’t want to be impacted, maybe they don’t want to be bothered with anyone else. There’s nothing worse than seeing it in the Church. Someone will become passionate about an idea for mission, a way to serve others, and you can just sense the impenetrable bubble at work when another person all too quickly shoots down their idea with statements like “We can’t do that now. We have other things we’re doing. That’s not our responsibility.” Somewhere I am convinced that Christ shakes his head. He came to show us a light in the darkness. To reveal a new way of living, a new way of being. He came to burst our bubble.
(Image courtesy of blogs.seattleweekly.com)
Christ doesn’t burst bubbles with his fingers, or his words. He does it with the thorns on the crown he was forced to wear when he died for us. That crown is the symbol of the burden he undertook for me and you, all of us. Our actions, our sins, all that would have otherwise kept us from being with God, Christ willingly wore as his own. The crown was made and placed on his head by human hands, meant to mock his title as King of the Jews. Those thorns dug into his flesh, made him bleed, but it was not he who deserved to bleed for those sins. It should have been us. That’s how great the grace of God is, that God would be willing to bear our sins and die to reconcile us to him. The thorns that rested against Christ’s flesh caused him pain, yet the ones directly outward serve to burst our bubbles. Our lives, our existence does affect others. It certainly affected Christ long before our hearts first beat and we took our first breath of air. We can sit within the safe confines of our bubbles and tell ourselves at we don’t affect others and they don’t affect us, but we’re just lying to ourselves. We can even go so far as to deny that God affects us and that our refusal to be in relationship with God does not affect God. Delusion has its comforts. Then I look at this:
(Image by Rev. Sarah Wastella)
I actually pricked my finger on that crown when I took it out. I didn’t bleed, but it hurt. In order to be healed, I have to recognize that I am hurt. In order to be reconciled to God, I have to realize that I have been separated from God by my sin. In order to be who God is calling me to be, I have to realize that it means being with others and sharing a new existence with them. It is only inevitable to realize that I will affect them and they will, in turn, affect me. I could stay in my bubble, hurt, broken, and ignorant. Or I could let Christ break me free to be healed, reconciled, and enlightened. I don’t have to bleed for this. Christ already did that. I just have to live.