In-Sight: Living by the Biggest Story

A meditation written in the aftermath of a week in which degrading words and deeds were leveled against transgender persons and other LGBTQ+ people, immigrants, refugees, and others–with additional hatefulness expressed through pipe bombs sent to selected political leaders…and…through the slaughter of Jews.

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We deteriorate as individuals and as societies when we use little stories to define and direct us.  Little stories are written by the ego, almost always crafting character and plot that exalts us above “others” and separates us from “others”  And from our position of self-declared superiority, we can then justify whatever we say and do toward the “less thans” we have named–even going so far as to claim our discrimination is of God, when it is anything but.

But the true God is not silent.  The true God cries out in the midst of all our little stories calling us to live by the Biggest Story possible. Bill Plotkin has given words to this Story, and he calls us to commit ourselves to it…

“[We must commit] ourselves to the largest story we’re capable of living, serving something bigger than ourselves. We must dare again to dream the impossible and to romance the world, to feel and honor our kinship with all species and habitats, to embrace the troubling wisdom of paradox, and to shape ourselves into visionaries with the artistry to revitalize our enchanted and endangered world.” [1]

The Biggest Story for us human beings is imago dei (Genesis 1:26-28), and we never live more closely to God than when we recognize the image of God in ourselves and honor it in others.  And to make this truth plain and inescapable, “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). The term we frequently use today to describe the incarnate Christ is “The Human One.” [2]

Jesus lived among us to show us in flesh, not simply in philosophy, that ‘human’ is God’s best idea, and having been sent to make that known, he issued this simple instruction, “As the Father has sent me, so send I you” (John 20:21).  By grace we are transformed into his likeness, enabled to live as “human ones” in the world in Jesus’ Name.

The great need in our time is to reject and abandon every little story that causes us to live sub-human lives out of whIch we then move harm others.  As the hymn says we must “have done with lesser things.” [3]  This past week we have seen the high price of prejudice born of supremacist thinking boilng over into governmental discrimination and hate-crime violence.

We must live by the Biggest Story possible–the sacred personhood of every human being–allowing that reality to transform us, and then enacting it for the transformation of others as we offer ourselves as living sacrifices to be instruments of God’s peace.

[1] Plotkin is a new find for me.  This quote is taken from Part One of a six-part series entitled, “Re-Visioning Ourselves,” posted October 19, 2018 on the website of The Animas Valley Institute.

[2] The CEB Study Bible has several excellent articles showing why the translators chose to translate the traditional phrase Son of Man as The Human One.  It is a rendering which takes the older phrase out of comparative obscurity and enables it to reach us with fuller force and applicability.

[3] “Rise Up, O Men of God”

About Steve Harper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 42 books. Also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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