The Whole is Greater than the Sum of its Parts

the whole is greater than the sum of its partsWhile this quote of Aristotle always inspired me whenever I felt overwhelmed or alone, frustrated with my own limitations and inadequacies…it also rendered me dissatisfied and disillusioned in my quest to be a member of that one great whole, or team that I could latch onto and add my small part to a much greater and more powerful transformation. While I’ve been a party to many groups in my lifetime, with the pledge to add my part to build something greater, also came the disappointment that comes with recognizing even the whole itself is horribly fallible. When the big picture starts to be a reflection of the the flaws of its smaller parts at a greater rate than the many gifts that are present…then its time to pick a new team.

In choosing clarity as my focus for the year, sometimes it means that we look at those groups that we are but a small part of. It is never easy, trying to be objective about a group that you’ve committed to, at least in theory, and asking these questions: Is the whole, the group that I’m part of really greater than its parts? Is it pulling the best of the many into an even better whole? Does it reflect the best of me? If you don’t like the answers to any of these questions, then it may be important to step away and reject the whole, in favor of just a solitary part. If the whole doesn’t embrace the best parts of me…even with all my flaws, its’ time to step away.

I could remain vague, but I don’t think that would fall in line with my commitment to clarity, and would leave you confused. So I say this: While my commitment to be an active part of the Body of Christ is as strong as it has ever been, I am leery of the the body that calls itself church as the primary means to create and keep the body of Christ functioning. Oh yeah, I said it. Remember, am making this claim. While I do see progress in the name of building the Body of Christ all over the world, the progress lies in the small parts and not the whole. I can give you a ton of individual anecdotes about people doing wonderful things…But when it comes to the whole? whew, those “bodies” are too much a reflection of people who look alike, think alike, and talk alike about what the rest of the world needs to do to be more like them, and what the “real” church has to look like.

So I call bullshit. If we are to really be a church, an expression of the Body of Christ and the Kingdom of God….then it has to reflect all of us, even the lesser parts (which will look different to every individual part who thinks they are so much more important, enlightened, and blessed than everyone else). It includes the wealthy and the poor, men and women, all ethnic groups and gender expressions, idiots and geniuses, the strong and the weak, the courageous and afraid, liberals and conservatives etc., etc. Because truthfully? All of us are fallible and fragile on our own. All of us need God, and not in all the same way. We do need each other to move ahead. But we need to use our best selves and allow others to be their best selves to do it. The Gospels are full of ways to be our best selves…when was the last time you walked in someone else’s shoes, not judged, gave out of need instead of excess, sold all you had, visited someone in prison, danced naked before the Lord..(ok, that last one is my favorite…you really should try it sometimes, it makes the other stuff so much easier to do).

And so comes the how. It is by God’s grace, and Christ’s essential commandment: Love the Lord your God with all your soul and with all your mind and love your neighbor as yourself. It may be messy. It may be hard. But it is what is required of us.

 

 

 

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