Not One Thing

I’m not a big fan of the Gospel of John. You’d think I would be, since nobody talks about love more than he does. But he’s also the most divisive of the gospel writers, and the most prone to poetry over storytelling. Plus he writes really, really long, profound thoughts, even though he uses small words, and it gives me a headache sometimes. Apologies to those who say the same about me.

So I made it through all of three verses of John before I had to stop. “Through [the Word, Christ] God made all things; not one thing in all creation was made without him.” (1:3). Turns out, you can sit with that for a long time.

I think Richard Rohr (who is prone to very Johannine abstraction and is another taste I haven’t yet acquired) is dwelling on this in his writing on “The Cosmic Christ.” If Christ is in everything and everyone, then it’s all – we’re all – holy. That shapes how we treat life in all its forms. There are probably things, if you’re like me, that you really don’t think of as holy. Most bugs, for instance. We can see God in the sunset or the mountains or the ocean, but if “not one thing” was created without God in it, then the ugly stuff is just as holy as the breathtaking. What are the things that I don’t think are holy? Where are the places that I don’t think God is? Turns out that our sense of aesthetics does not contain the boundaries of God’s imbued presence.

That’s hard – more so for those of us whose affinity for “being green” starts and ends with Kermit the Frog. But you know what’s harder?

“Not one thing” also means “not one person”. So think of the people that get excluded or overlooked or denied essential dignity. All of them are holy. (All of us are holy, really.)

But go one step further. It’s not just those who are excluded or overlooked; those you find repulsive or vile, those who you consider “the problem”, who were created holy.

There is a long theological argument about the degree to which our brokenness has messed up that essential holiness, and it’s got to be the case that things and people aren’t exactly the way God would have drawn it all up, right? But just as our aesthetic tastes don’t limit God’s holiness, neither does our morality. Yes, God is in the true, the good and the beautiful. But if “not one thing in all creation was made without God,” that means the fake, the bad and the ugly have an essential holy heredity we are bound to at least look for.

So who do you have on your “not holy” list? John 1:3 is making me sit with the idea that God made them, too. Which has consequences for how I treat them.

Which is yet another reason not to be crazy about John.

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