No man is an island entire of itself; every man
is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;
if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe
is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as
well as any manner of thy friends or of thine
own were; any man's death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind.
And therefore never send to know for whom
the bell tolls; it tolls for thee. John Donne
Hebrews 2:14-18 challenges us to think about two types of associations. The first of these associations is "accidental." The second is "on purpose." These associations are critical. they are tied to the issues of life and death, and will determine how we will live our lives.
Fellowship of the Damned
Every human participates in the fellowship of humanity. We are all a part of Adam's race, and share in the privileges and liabilities of that race. According to the Biblical record, we can go back to the Flood, and trace lines of ancestry through the three sons of Noah, but before and beyond that, we still have a common father, Adam.
Whatever distinguishes us throughout humanity is not so important as that which unites us. We have become experts at recognizing the differences of race and nation. We tend to gather according to social levels or fragment due to economic development. But we forget that we are largely all the same, part of the fellowship of humanity, hemmed in by human birth and human death, living a little less than a century, leaving a rather light mark on history.
For all of our intelligence evidenced in communication and organization that sets us apart from animal species, we have our obvious liabilities. We are inventive in new forms of foolishness, and are often entrapped in new kinds of addictions. Our best moments are interrupted by disasters and tragedies of our own making, both on a national and a personal scale.
What we have "in common" is our fallen humanity, which stands under condemnation. We may not be as bad as we could be, but we surely are not what we were made to be. We are in constant danger of sinking toward that "lowest common denominator," the worst rather than the best, and we do indeed suffer from "guilt by association." We all are born a part of the fellowship of the damned.
Partnership of the Redeemed
Jesus "partakes" of our humanity intentionally. He enters the world of men on purpose, in order that he might introduce a "new humanity" to a brotherhood of which he is the firstborn.
There is a difference in our passage between "fellowship" and "partnership" (partaking). We have no choice in our fellowship. Jesus did. He became a member of what we are by nature. He saddled himself with the limitations and liabilities of our condition. He purposefully sat at the table of those who were unlike him in so many ways, even though he had become like them in so many other ways.
You and I are summoned/invited to this partnership/membership by faith in Jesus Christ. It is not accidental. It is not inevitable. As Jesus entered into this relationship thoughtfully, so will you, or you won't. But he did.
Jesus became like us in all the necessary ways. And yet he remained unlike us in certain ways as well. He had to eat and sleep and work. But he never sinned. Like, and unlike. He reached deep into humanity through his humble service. He refrained from humanity's crudity and impurity.
For those who are followers of Jesus Christ, we have a pattern to imitate. We reach out to men and women in this world, whether they know Jesus or not, by humble service. But we also refrain from the false worship and pursuits to which the world is addicted, thinking that this is all there is. And because we know Jesus, we know that it is not.