by Austin Carty
Love: it will not betray you, dismay or enslave you; it will set you free. Be more like person you were made to be. — Mumford and Sons, “Sigh No More”
In the earliest days of his recorded ministry, Jesus of Nazareth walked the shores of Galilee proclaiming that the Kingdom of God was at hand, that those who followed him would become fishers of humanity: people responsible for spreading the good news about the Kingdom of God on earth, for telling others how, in this kingdom, they too would be capable of meeting hate with love, slight with forgiveness, resentment with patience, anger with kindness.
This, Jesus taught, is what the Kingdom of God on earth would look like: a world where we are all constantly raising one another up, a place where we are all living in unbroken relationship with one another, a place where we are all serving as our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers.
A place where we are all fishers of humanity.
Instead, though, in the broken world in which we live — in the broken world in which Jesus inaugurated this new kingdom —we seldom live in unbroken relationships with one another, even though we can if we choose to.
Instead of being fishers of humanity, we create fissures of humanity: cracks and breaks and tears that separate us and divide us and pit us against one another.
Cracks like sexism and racism and religious intolerance. Breaks like classism and exclusivism and homophobia. Tears like crippling economic disparity and unflagging commitment to preconceived ideologies.
In the final analysis, these fissures — all of which are rooted in fear — manifest themselves in a sort of tribalism, an unwillingness to embrace the other, to see the fullness and depth of another’s humanity.
And here’s the thing: You can’t be a fisher of humanity if you don’t recognize someone’s humanity in the first place.
I recognize that Jesus of Nazareth doesn’t mean the same thing to everyone as he does to me, and that’s okay. In fact, it sort of underscores my point, because what I want to highlight is this: If what Jesus taught is true, which I sincerely believe it is, we were designed to be in unbroken relationship. Religion (and everything else) aside, we were designed to live in harmony with one another.
In other words, it’s not just an idea. Not just a half-baked utopian fantasy. Not just a social ethic or a political philosophy. Instead, a yearning for unbroken relationship is rooted in the very fabric of who and what we were created to be as human beings.
In Tim Keller’s book The Reason For God, he writes that for all of eternity the Trinity has existed in unbroken relationship among its constituent members; that the Father is constantly lavishing unconditional love on the Son and the Spirit, the Son and the Spirit constantly doing the same for the Father and one another.
Keller calls this “The Dance of the Trinity,” and he goes on to claim that this neverending relationship of reciprocity is the very fuel on which God runs. In other words, he claims that love is God’s essence.
I think Keller is onto something here, and as a person of faith, I find it both comforting and illuminating to recognize that this constant reciprocity of love between the constituent members of the Trinity — this unbroken relationship that makes the Trinity whole and complete—is a vital part of the Imago Dei in all of us, no matter our religious affiliation — part of what it means to say that human beings were created “in God’s Image.”
Just as unbroken relationship makes God complete and is what causes God’s essence to be love, so too are we supposed to be in unbroken relationship with one another so that we can be complete, so that we too can become who we were originally designed to be.
In the lyrics to “Sigh No More,”, Mumford and Sons sing: “There is a design, an alignment, a cry of my heart to see/ the beauty of love as it was made to be.”
I find in myself that same design, that same alignment, that same cry. And I’m willing to bet that, deep down, so do you.
This longing, I sincerely believe, is to see the Kingdom of God made manifest: to see a world of redeemed human beings whose very essence is love, who live in unbroken relationship with God and with one another, whose embrace of one another leads to people becoming their truest, fullest selves.
This is the good news Jesus of Nazareth proclaimed.
This is what it looks like when there are no more fissures of humanity because, instead, we have all become fishers of humanity.
And it’s not just fantastic thinking: It’s what we were designed for.
Austin Carty of High Point is the author of High Points and Lows: Life, Faith and Figuring it All Out. Watch him preach “The Gospel According to the Avett Brothers” at austincarty.com. And yeah, he’s that guy from “Survivor.”