Egypt has been a nation for approximately 5,100 years.
China has been a nation for approximately 4,100 years.
India has been a nation for roughly 3,500 years.
This summer, our nation will celebrate 245 years of existence.
As nations go, we are toddlers. This point is often missed when we consider our economic impact on the world. Regardless of our age, we are world leaders.
However, there are times that our immaturity raises its head. Jan. 6 was just one of those times.
The Bible has a wonderful Greek word that is often translated “mature.” It is the word “téleios.” The ancient Greeks packed meaning into each of their words. “Téleios” is also translated as perfect, complete, entire, finished, having reached its end, accomplished and fulfilled. The implication is that all of these terms play a role in our understanding of maturity.
The Apostle Paul provided a metric for evaluating one’s maturity. From his perspective, maturity results in unity. Paul was not referring to unity among like people. He was the multicultural evangelist and was referring to unity among very diverse people, cultures, languages and mores.
Anyone can find unity with people who share common values and history. Mature people can find unity among people who are quite different.
So many issues of life seem to be binary. The action is right or wrong, helpful or hurtful, necessary or unnecessary, in the budget or a budget buster.
Unfortunately, binary thinking is a sign of immaturity. Complex issues require a more mature method of understanding. Life is not simply black or white.
Paul compared the faith community to a human body. All of the organs and systems of the human body must function in unity for the body to be healthy. Paul anthropomorphizes the body parts to provide us with a humorous view of unity. Can you imagine what would happen if parts of the body started to exclude the parts that were not like them?
What if the foot seceded from the body because it was not the head? Or if the eyes got rid of ears because the ears could not see? Paul even makes the case that there are some parts of the body that no one knows their exact function. What if we just started removing those organs? Paul ends his unity in diversity discussion by saying “when one member of the body suffers, all members of the body suffer.”
As a nation, we have a lot of growing to do. Like the human toddler, we sometimes stumble and fall. We stumbled on Jan. 6. No American benefited from the events of that day.
But like the human toddler, our nation can leap up and continue to walk. We can walk with the aim of growing up and becoming everything our founders envisioned us to become.
The Preamble to the Constitution declares that our founders wanted to form “a more perfect union.” This English word is the same as the Apostle Paul’s word for maturity – téleios.
The Rev. Dr. Jon R. Black is senior pastor at Campbell Chapel A.M.E. Church in Bluffton.