What are people for?

April 1st, 2009

Lars AkersonBy Lars Akerson
EMU class of 2008

Lars is currently traveling with EMU senior Jon Spicher on bicycle from EMU’s campus in Harrisonburg, Va., to Asunción, Paraguay for Mennonite World Conference in July 2009. Their website describes their cross-contintental journey as a pilgrimage that will allow them “to learn from and serve those we meet and to begin living in a community relevant to Christ’s call.”

Read: John 12:20-33 and Isaiah 50:4-9

As I’ve traveled through Mexico over the past several weeks, I haven’t been able to get the idea of self-sacrifice and self-sacrificial love out of my mind and soul. There are many ways this text interacts with my recent experiences, but this seems to stand in stark contrast to the rest. It’s so contrary to any other voice in the history of the world, and it nestles itself right at the core of the Gospel.

I’ve seen huge Aztec temples built and inaugurated with the sacrifices of thousands of laborers and captive warriors; read of massive corporate riches amassed at the cost of millions of people’s pensions and retirement funds; and participated in the incredible luxury afforded to those at the core of the developed world while those at the periphery sew it together and move from home to the ‘misery belts,’ or try to fight their way closer to the core. Where did we ever get the idea that this is what people are for? Did we somehow forget that we, too, are human?

Jesus seems intent to remind us what it means to be truly human. In John 12:24 He compares humans and their lives to seeds, whose sole purpose it is to give their all to allow for new life to spring forth. That’s the biology of a seed: it comes with just enough energy for germination, and when that is done, its job is over.

Jesus says in his own baffling way that that’s the essence of the glory of the Son of Man – the truly Human One. He says, in the words of Eminem, “Just lose it.” As he speaks, he’s not without fear, but he knows – as the voice reiterates – that his glorification will continue throughout future generations. Love can lead in no other way. This will be both the eternal glory of humanity and the unending shame of “the prince of this world.”

It’s the perfect culmination of the process of selflessness. The world cannot understand a life devoted entirely to Shalom, and so exposes its own lack by raising up – by crucifying – Love. Yet, we have no room for indignation. It is we who have not understood; it is we who have set the nails to Christ’s body. We, the residents of this world, must live – for now – in this twilight. We must recognize our complicity in both the evil and the holiness of this world. For, if we are willing, it will be the soil of our transformation.

Respond: LORD God, We await Your Spirit of Patience, as we live with ourselves, both holy and detestable; and of Humility, as we offer ourselves daily, by Your love, to Your world. Open our eyes, that we may see Your color and design in ourselves. Unstop our ears, that we may hear Your melody and harmonies in the world in which we live. For it is by Your Son that we are healed, Amen.