Our Common Condition
What makes a thing or a people common? In some ways, the answer to this question is a matter of perspective. A “commoner”, for instance, is someone who lacks social rank or nobility, and is unable to participate in the privileged activities of the powerful and wealthy. Nothing will stir public interest any faster than the news someone of royal birth has decided to marry a commoner. Perhaps there is something in all of us common folk that wonders what it would be like to suddenly become uncommon.
But if we pull back a bit from human social structure and look at our race as a whole, we realize we are all commoners. Perhaps Job said it best when he proclaimed, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart” (Job 1:21). I should probably mention, before Job was beset by a series of terrible loses he was considered “the greatest man among all the people of the East” (Job 1:3). Job was wise enough to know worldly greatness can’t change the realities that come with being human.
The human race faces three common threats: 1) injury, sickness and death, 2) sin and its consequences, and 3) natural disaster. These categories encompass a number of trials, struggles and circumstances we face on a daily basis. Some of them make the news. Others occur unnoticed even by close friends, relatives and neighbors. Yet none of us escape the inevitable plight of our human condition. Even if we are somehow spared our portion of difficulties, we must all, as Job reminded us, “depart.”
There is a sense in which these realities draw us together. The chaos and confusion of a disaster is lessened by trained first responders who come prepared to do whatever is necessary to help. Relief organizations and churches travel hundreds of miles to participate in the recovery of entire communities. As a minister I spend a lot of time in hospitals and I am always amazed at the way local police, fire and rescue teams work in concert with medical teams to save lives and comfort those who are grieving. In office setting, friends collect money to help co-workers. Children in an elementary classroom make get-well cards for a classmate who has been in an accident. Families bring food to their neighbors who have lost loved ones. Church members visit with a brother in Christ who is incarcerated for a crime.
We can’t watch others go through the things we know are a part of our common condition and do nothing. Some of us can do more than others, but we connect on a most basic level. One thing is certain: no matter where we end up in society we will forever be a part of the human race. This one thing we all share.