Jesus asked, “Who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “The Messiah.” Jesus said, “On this rock I will build my community and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it” (Matthew 16.15-17, 18b)
Jesus asks, Peter answers, and Jesus affirms the revelation as foundational, the ground upon which community is established.
Turning away from a primarily theological viewpoint and looking through a chiefly human lens, I see complementary and contrasting parts of an inescapable experiential reality: individual identity and life in community.
“Who do you say I am?” Good question. Any of us could ask it of others about ourselves, for it is a part of the work of our communities to help us discern our identities. And this, individual identity confirmed in community is at the heart of every human bond – whether with one in our most intimate relationships, within the larger fellowship of our families and friends, or in the myriad groups with which we associate.
I think about race. The events of this month in Ferguson, Missouri, with the shooting death of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, by the police and the immediately ensuing and ongoing protests, raise painfully afresh the specter of our American irresolution about race, and some would add class.
Still, over time, we, the global human race, inexorably have moved beyond once clear boundaries and, at times, fixed barriers between and among peoples into a vastly more complicated inclusive and diverse world.
I wonder. Will we, can we carry with greater, graceful equilibrium our pride in our individual heritages and our common human history and destiny? Will we, can we, in regard to and irrespective of race (or culture or class or whatever else that distinguishes and divides us), look into one another’s eyes and, seeing ourselves more clearly, say, “Aha!”?
Individual identity confirmed in a community envisioned by Jesus against which “the gates of Hades cannot prevail.”
Again, from a human experiential, relational point of view, I hear something here about the death-defeating power of our awareness of being part of our global human community that can overwhelm, overcome the death-dealing confines of a self solely or even largely centered in one’s race (or culture or class or whatever else that distinguishes and divides us).
Do we, dare we choose to gaze into the eyes of the human other, yea, even the cosmic Other and, beholding ourselves more clearly, say, “Aha!”?