Are We Different Stones In The Same Building?

Were you thinking of what Paul said when he told
the brethren of Ephesus and neighboring congregations
that we were being put together as stones on the
foundation of the Apostles and prophets when you
wrote your lengthy allegory comparing believers to
a great tower that was being constructed by God
out of the people who trust in Him and follow His
ways?  I must admit that while many people are
not impressed with the rather artless way you
describe yourself as a simple person who does not
understand things easily or profoundly and take
you at face value when you consider yourself to
be somewhat slow that I think it is impressive
that you would go to such lengths to explore a
metaphor that Paul also wrote about at great
length.  For we are indeed as a body of believers
made of diverse stones that are fit together
to make a beautiful building, a temple for God
out of living stones.  Are we different stones in
that same building?  I hope so.

***

I myself am of somewhat mixed feelings when it comes to the Shepherd of Hermas [1].  On the one hand, it is not a book of conspicuous literary genius, and I tend to appreciate highly accomplished literary efforts.  On the other hand, though, Hermas did something in his allegory that was notable.  For one, he paved the way for later Christian allegories that would be much more accomplished writings of literature, and as Christian allegories are something that I have written at considerable length (including a play that went on for 250 pages and a musical about the same allegorical world that used songs from the hymnals I grew up with), I cannot criticize him for writing at length, nor is his modest literary skill something I can fault with either.  He gets the essential aspect right that godly living is of the utmost importance and that believers are stones to be made into a unified building, and even the fact that his brother was a bishop of Rome is not something I am going to hold against him.

When I think about the Apostolic Fathers, in which Hermas is definitely a notable part, one of the questions I wonder is whether or not I would care to meet the person and get to know them personally.  It should be noted and acknowledged that unlike most people who write in the contemporary age, the ancient world was full of people who wrote rhetorically rather than personally.  It is also true, though, that many people who write nowadays (myself included) often write with deliberate rhetorical purposes and write occasionally, making one’s writing complicated to understand and full of layers that may not be readily apparent to those who only read them from a romantic perspective where it is assumed that someone is spilling their hearts out in their writing rather than writing from a cerebral or reasoned perspective.  To be sure, there are times I write pouring my heart out, but there are many times where my writing springs from motivations other than the heart, and I assume that was the case for Hermas as well.  If he was not the most polished of speakers, he certainly write an intriguing rhetorical work that sought to encourage corporate discipline within families and congregations, and that is a work that many people can get behind.

It should be noted as well that the question in the poem as to whether or not Hermas and I are stones in the same building is not a rhetorical question.  It is in general a bad idea to think that we have enough understanding of the spiritual state of other people (and even ourselves) to know where we will end up in terms of the judgment of God, and whether we will be counted worthy to enter into the resurrection of the blessed or whether anyone else will is not something we should speculate on with any sort of self-confidence.  It is especially difficult to make this guess when it comes to ancient people about whom we know almost nothing.  That said, it is not unreasonable to ask ourselves whether we hope that a given person will be raised to eternal life at the seventh trumpet when Jesus Christ returns to this earth or not.  There may be certain people (possibly in our families or congregations) that we may not be enthusiastic about spending the rest of eternity with, but there should be at least some people that we are pretty sure that we would enjoy spending eternity with.  Perhaps these are people who seem to be deeply conscientious people who are generally good folk to know, or perhaps we are talking about people who are both witty and kind, or perhaps we are talking about people we judge as being enough like ourselves that we can relate well to them.

It is important to know, though, that we are truly part of a larger whole with other believers in an organism and edifice of sorts that is being built by God and Jesus Christ.  This understanding that we are part of a collective whole that is greater than ourselves alone is something that ought to give us pause when it comes to our relationship with God.  It is very common for people nowadays to think that it is all about themselves and God or not to be comfortable with groups of believers larger than a small house church or small group fellowship, because issues of getting along with others seems so difficult to manage.  Nevertheless, in order to be right with God we have to be able to fit in with other believers who come from different backgrounds and with different personalities and other identity characteristics and who even come from different historical periods.  If we are people afflicted with chronological snobbery who feel we have nothing to learn from the ways of the past and who think that all of our troubled relationships with other people are the result of the imperfections of those other people are going to have some rough surprises when it comes time for God to sort out what sort of stones we are in the edifice He has been constructing all this time.  It is better for us to do our best to overcome our rough spots and difficulties in communication and to recognize that we are part of a larger whole.

[1] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2018/05/01/assessing-the-shepherd-of-hermas-as-literature/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2018/05/02/the-shepherd-of-hermas-and-its-view-of-women/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2018/05/03/congregational-discipline-in-the-shepherd-of-hermas/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2018/05/04/the-shepherd-of-hermas-and-the-shape-of-christian-allegory/

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in Bible, Christianity, Church of God and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Are We Different Stones In The Same Building?

  1. Pingback: An Introduction To The Apostolic Fathers Series | Edge Induced Cohesion

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