“It’s A Small World After All”
There’s an old, silly joke about an Earth astronaut goes into a bar on Mars and ends up sitting next to an alien from Neptune. The Neptunian turns to him and says, “Hey, you’re from Earth. Say, do you know….?”
The reason that’s funny is because of how often that sort of thing happens and you really do know the person they’re asking about. We joke about the ‘six degrees of separation’ and the Kevin Bacon game, because for a planet of 7+ billion people, it is amazing how small of a family we really are.
Just yesterday, I wandered through the student union to get something to drink. In one of the dining rooms, I saw a couple of acquaintances involved in international ministry, and went to say hi. With them were two ladies, one who’d recently moved to town to work in a ministry and the other who is from Scotland, solely in town to visit her friend, the new arrival.
Given my love of pretty much anything Celtic, we talked for a few minutes, and I came to find out she no longer lived in Scotland but was living in Russia as a missionary. Having taken Russian in college and studying there one summer, this opened a new area of conversation. I also knew a number of folks who had or are spending time in Russia with various ministries, and an old acquaintance from college came to mind.
On a whim, I asked if she knew my friend. She nearly fell down laughing because they currently are roommates!
What makes this particularly ironic to me is that when I was over there 20 years ago for my Study Abroad trip, I took a bunch of Russian New Testaments and other literature over there myself. Upon my arrival I discovered a group of Navigators from the upper Midwest were due to arrive soon. When I met them, all of them were from Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota, but one had on a University of Texas shirt. I looked at her and asked about it. Turns out she also was a fellow student at UT and the roommate of a gal I knew back home! We worked together on Bible Studies that summer with some Russians and kept in touch for several years back in Texas.
When I was in grad school, my advisor was continually amazed—no matter where I travelled across the country, even to places where I’d never been, I rarely had to pay for a hotel room. I either knew someone in that town or through my church network found someone willing to open their home to me.
The connection we have through the Spirit of Christ unites us and truly binds us together as family, and is a witness to others looking for a sense of belonging. The church is the last place on Earth where a person should feel lonely—“There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” (Ephesians 4:4-6)
If we have this connection through the worldwide assembly of believers, then we needs must make sure it includes each who is with us locally. It is easier to connect with the Scottish roommate of a friend off in Russia than the needy irritating brother or sister next to me in the pew, but both connections are necessary. To love our neighbor is to put their needs equal to or above our own, without cherry picking which needs are acceptable or worthy of our attention.
The Cross revealed the true equality of all humans. We are equally condemned in our sin, the least to the greatest, and have equal access to the throne of grace, the dwelling place of the Almighty, from the least to the greatest.
We are a family. Blessed are we when we live like it.