As I have done for you, you should also do for one another. John 13:15
As we celebrate Holy Thursday, I am reminded of Jesus’ final pleas for unity among his believers, first in his “prayer for unity” before his arrest and then in his foot-washing example at the Last Supper.
These pleas are in contrast to the denial of our interdependence, a sin that we have repeated, in one way or another, ever since Cain and Abel. Oddly enough, our interdependence that Jesus prayed for before his arrest and demonstrated at the Last Supper can be summed up in our state motto, “United We Stand. Divided We Fall.”
Jealousy and competitiveness have been the dark side of human beings for a very long time and it is alive and well today.
When James and John were caught making a move to grab the best seats in Jesus’ new kingdom, they had to face the jealous indignation of the other apostles, as well as a stern reprimand from Jesus.
John tried to put a stop to someone who was driving out demons in the name of Jesus because he was not “a member of the inner circle.” Joshua complained to Moses that Medad and Eldad were prophesying, even though they had not been “in the tent” with the others.
Just as bad as our constant competition is our infamous inability to affirm each other, our deafening silence when we have the chance to say something supportive. We need to pay attention to what those around us are doing, affirm their efforts, recognize their successes and encourage them in what they are doing. When we do that for one another, everybody wins.
This poem by American poet James P. Kenney may say it best:
The Cold Within
Six humans trapped by happenstance
In dark and bitter cold
Each possessed a stick of wood —
Or so the story’s told.
Their dying fire in need of logs,
But the first one held hers back,
For, of the faces around the fire,
She noticed one was black.
The next one looked cross the way
Saw one not of his church,
And could not bring himself to give
The fire his stick of birch.
The third one sat in tattered clothes
He gave his coat a hitch,
Why should his log be put to use
To warm the idle rich?
The rich man just sat back and thought
Of wealth he had in store,
And keeping all that he had earned
From the lazy, shiftless poor.
The black man’s face bespoke revenge
As the fire passed from his sight,
For he saw in his stick of wood
A chance to spite the white.
And the last man of this forlorn group
Did nought except for gain,
Giving just to those who gave
Was how he played the game,
Their sticks held tight in death’s stilled hands
Was proof enough of sin;
They did not die from cold without —
They died from cold within.
Father J. Ronald Knott