One of my favorite metaphors from the life of Jesus appears in John’s narrative of the raising of Lazarus. Jesus stands outside the Lazarus’ tomb and gives His beloved friend’s corpse an authoritative call to life and a commanding call to action: “Lazarus, come out!”
The cadaver responds, and Lazarus emerges from the tomb alive.
But he’s quite encumbered, restricted, hindered, and inhibited by his burial wrappings. He’s been freed from the grave, but is still bound by his grave clothes.
Jesus doesn’t tell Lazarus to free himself from his grave clothes.
Jesus doesn’t do anything directly to remove them.
Instead, Jesus calls Lazarus’ relatives and friends into action: “Unbind him, and let him go.”
So, freeing Lazarus from the captivity of his death wrappings turns out to be a community project. And so it is with us. When Jesus calls us from our spiritual graves to new life, suddenly we are no longer corpses. We emerge from our tombs very much alive to God.
But, like Lazarus, we find that we’re still wrapped up tight in our death rags. We’re still confined by our burial wrappings–old habits, old behaviors, old patterns of thinking, old wounds—and we’re not able to freely move about. All these restricting sheets and cloths and strips are part of our grave wardrobe, and we need to be unbound in order to walk freely in our new life.
We can’t free ourselves, so Jesus calls us to find freedom in spiritual community. In community, we are to help each other get unwrapped, unbound and set free. And the freer we are from our own wrappings, the better able we are to help loose others from theirs.
I’ve been part of communities where we were all pretty incapacitated by our own grave clothes, and were not very helpful to each other in the liberation process. I regret to say that I’ve been in communities where we contributed to each others grave apparel, applying additional tomb-wrap to our neighbors. During that part of my spiritual journey, it was pretty slow-going as I hopped and shuffled along, bumping into things because of the shroud that was obstructing my vision.
In recent years, though, I have become less encumbered on my journey as I’ve entered into the liberating spiritual community of those who themselves have been freed through the ministry of others.
We all need to receive and to give the gift of unwrapping. Are you part of a liberating spiritual community?