“One” is among U2’s biggest hit singles. Over the last few decades it has resonated strongly with many who have experienced deep connection, love, conflict, alienation, and (hopefully) reconciliation.
It captures the complications of intense and intimate relationships.
One detail that many miss is the repeated statement that “we get to carry each other.” It isn’t an exhortation, but a reminder. It’s not that “we’ve got to,” but, “we get to.”
In the midst of relational conflicts, it’s easy to forget that we are gifts to each other. “We’re one, but we’re not the same. We get to carry each other.”
The way forward toward flourishing, healthy community dynamics, and mutual enjoyment is set pride aside and discover together how we are gifts to each other.
The temptation, of course, is to make demands of one another, gain leverage, manipulate each other. These are the ways of destruction.
Paul follows the same pattern as “One” in 1 Corinthians. The Corinthians have split up into factions, rallying around their favorite early church figures (1 Cor. 1:10-12). Paul reminds them that they have been united in Christ and that all the various groups and teachers in the church are God’s gifts to them all (1 Cor. 3:21-23). Chapter 12, where Paul discusses the unity and diversity of their community as Christ’s body, is all about how they are one, but they’re not the same. Only when they receive and serve one another will the entire community enjoy flourishing.
The same pattern can be discerned in Galatians, Romans, and even Hebrews.
Listening to the song again recently, however, I was reminded of Mark 2:1-5.
A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. They gathered in such large numbers that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
Obviously there’s the paralyzed man literally being carried by his friends, but what resonates with “One” for me, and what I find so beautiful, is that the communal dynamic is essential to the forgiveness and healing (vv. 6-12). Jesus forgives and heals when he saw their faith.
We belong to one another and we’re given to each other as gifts. We do indeed lose sight of that quite often, seeing each other as obstacles to flourishing and mutual delight. What’s needed, however, is clarified vision, a gospel-shaped imagination, so that we see once again that “we’re one, but we’re not the same. We get to carry each other.”