We live in a world that thrives on individuality. “One of a kind” is preferred over “one of the herd.” Being “unique” is a higher calling than being “uniform.” “Standing out” is far better than “blending in.” I get it. Being unique makes us feel special, it invites others to notice us. It helps us stand out in a crowd. But I wonder sometimes if our obsession with being a one-of-a-kind, separates us from those with whom we may have much in common. And I worry that our over-focusing on being distinct drives a wedge between us and others with whom we might otherwise find that we share much in common.
Sometimes those of us who claim to be religious creatures are the worst practitioners of this separatist mindset. Heck, in Lutheranism alone, there are forty different denominational groups in America that lay claim to the heritage of Martin Luther. What on earth are we thinking? We make a mockery of Jesus call to unity in John 17 … “I ask … that they may all be one.”
So, I was grateful on Monday when Neil Snyder sent me an article he came across from Fox News entitled, “Yael Eckstein: Christians and Jews can celebrate shared virtues on Jewish High Holy Days.” Eckstein is the President of The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews. And she invites Jews and Christians alike to consider three common “virtues” that unite us as believers. She writes, “These virtues are as foundational and inseparable to the Christian faith as they are to our own. One needs only to remember that the Christian Old Testament is our Hebrew Bible, and concepts like repentance, prayer, and charity – the key themes highlighted throughout these 10 days – are three values we share, partly because we take them from the same source.”
So, during this week in in which our sisters and brothers in faith – God’s first children – celebrate what they identify as “High Holy Days”, might you consider the invitation to reflect upon these three “virtues” of repentance, prayer and charity. They will not distinguish you from others … many people of faith embrace these virtues. They will connect you to a worldwide religious community with whom we share the belief in God the Father. They will challenge you to be a better person of faith. And they will encourage you with the assurance that you are not alone … you are not the only one doing this … but that your journey of repentance, prayer and charity in one in which you are surrounded by a host of fellow pilgrims. (Oh, and as you pray, send up a word of thanks for Neil’s partnership in this devotion).