How Close Are We Really?


Facebook published statistics yesterday, based on a user base analysis that shows that we are separated by 4.74 degrees of separation.  What does that really mean anyhow?  There was a book released some years back, followed by a movie of the same name called Six Degrees of Separation which postulated that we are all separated from each other by just a few (six to be exact) relational connections.  Even the most affluent in our society is separated from the most lowly by only a few people.

In other words, we all know somebody who knows somebody who knows somebody who knows somebody (you get the idea) an average of 4.74 times removed before everybody is connected to everyone.  While it may be that the Facebook data is a bit skewed, since only those who have access to computers can use Facebook, it still is quite astounding that we all are so closely (ostensibly) in relationship with one another.

The implications of this are mind blowing.  Think about how quickly gossip travels, now we know why.  Think about how a person of little influence, with few actual friends can in reality have impact on the opinions of the entire world!  I have several pieces of anecdotal evidence to add to this.  We all know someone who has been touched by Cancer, there is nobody (virtually) on this planet that has not met somebody or someone whose life has been affected somehow by Cancer.

My other examples are more personal.  I was reflecting on this when I went to a Prayer meeting at church this morning.  At the prayer meeting I met a fellow named Joseph who used to go to Hope Chapel.  He is in town visiting his 83 year old mother and thought he’d visit and at least get to a prayer meeting.  I don’t know how the conversation turned this way, he may have steered it this way, but he mentioned he was a flight instructor and had actually been one of those people training the Al Qaeda terrorists prior to 9/11.

At the time he says he recognized who they were, that they were bad men, and that he ought to do something so he did.  He called the FBI and was told “We know about them.  We’re tracking them.  We’re powerless until they _do_ something.”  He also said the terrorists had him speak with Usama Bin Laden on the telephone.  He (Bin Laden) asked Joseph to join their efforts, and to get a plane and teach the guys to fly (Joseph teaches ground school only).  At that point, Joseph says he refused, so they simply found another instructor who would.  Several of them still completed their ground school with him.

It was only a couple years after 9/11 that Cheryl and I met Dave and Cynthia.  They were parents of a teen who was in a rehabilitation program with my son.  They were quite wealthy, well off I think you’d say, living in a gated community in Denver.  However, Dave was semi-retired.  He was about our age so I wondered how he had done so well.  One night at their place, we were there many times quite late, hanging with the kids and having “Social” evenings, he told us how he came to be in the position he was in.

He told us he couldn’t work anymore, but had had to retire.  He had been at Ground Zero on 9/11, in one of the “other” World Trade Center buildings, but had seen the first plane hit one of the Twin Towers.  He was in a conference room, at the time having a board meeting for the financial firm he worked for.  He had been a Vice President, and that’s where his money had come from.  He, and about 3,000 other folks had evacuated down the stairs that day, and had heard the other plane hit the second tower.

Here are a couple simple examples in my own life of coming in contact with folks who have been eye-witnesses to unspeakable evil.  Is it necessary to ask them whether or not evil is real?  Of course not.  They know, their lives have been forever altered by having come in contact with those evil people.  A few years back I worked in retail.  It was the first time I had ever worked in retail – ever.  I was faced with some grim statistics in the retail environment.  I found out that in reality about 90% of us are honest – we would never steal something from a store.  It’s the 10% out there that make life so miserable for all of us.  The 10% are the ones for whom we have all that security.  Those few require us to have theft preventative measures, alarms on doors, all that expense, because of their dishonesty.

It should be pointed out though that if we didn’t have all that security and theft prevention apparatus that more of us would probably be tempted to steal, but that’s somewhat beside the point.  The point is that the few make life miserable for all of us.  Evil exists and is constantly trying to find a way into our lives.  Even if we’ve never stolen anything from a store, we’ve probably taken things at work, a paperclip, paper, pencils, pens, or made copies on the copier at work.  Anything, and that makes us all thieves. We probably have also lied at some point in our lives.  We have become so calloused that we think sometimes that evil is “Out there” and not part of our nature.  We are deceived if that is the end of our thinking on this issue.

But, we can take comfort because Jesus came and died on a Cross for us.  He came that we might have life and live it to the full!  He came with an offer of eternal salvation and all He asks in return is our repentance and faith.  The Bible says that “… if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9).  Belief is the act that leads to confessing, that then is followed by obedience and a turning from sin (faith is an action).  We can be “Overcomers” as it says in Revelation.  We must be if we hope to be on that narrow road that leads to Heaven.  Especially so if we hope to have any kind of influence on the world around us.  The world in reality is a small place.  We are only separated by a few people from every other person on the planet.  Once we realize that, then we can truly assess our own behavior and the real consequences for each and every action.

If we live our lives as if Christ doesn’t matter, then folks will think Christianity is just like every other “Religion” out there:  No power, no substance, no difference.  That, these days, is exactly what they see in most folks who call themselves “Christians.”  Most Christians do not live holy lives, apart from the world, in it but not of it.  It’s probably the most difficult thing to do too, but fortunately Christ assures us that we have His power, the Holy Spirit to help us be obedient each and every day.  “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” Paul says in Philippians.  We must take that in to our spirits, we must meditate on it and use it to help us grow and become more like Jesus.

That – is the essence of the true Gospel.  That Jesus’ resurrection power is available to each and every one of us to help us live lives that matter, that make a difference.  We can influence those around us in a positive way.  We can help everyone see not only that they need Jesus, but that they can grow and become like Him as well.  Otherwise, we might as well be “Chasing after wind” as Solomon said, because without Jesus, it’s all meaningless.

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