You are not unique.

Sorry to disappoint or offend you with such a blunt statement. (Perhaps it helps to know I’m not unique either.)

Oh, we might have unique fingerprints or voice patterns. My DNA may be particular to me, marking me uniquely. There may even be flashes of uniqueness in our personalities and gifts.

But in the most fundamental (and important) ways, all men and women are alike. In fact, it is essential that we be so. It is the assumption of commonality that makes religion, science, art, business, politics, philosophy, and literature possible. We cannot think about humanity apart from the premise that—in every significant way—human beings are best described not by our idiosyncrasies but by our commonalities.

This is certainly true in matters of faith. It is the assumption of spiritual common ground for humanity that gives meaning to key statements about our relationship with God:

For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. (Jn 3:16)

All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Ro 3:23)

No one will ever be made right with God by obeying the law. (Gal 2:16)

These statements are true of all people, at all times. You and I are not exceptions to these rules. Indeed, there are no exceptions. No one is “unique” in matters of the soul. All have fallen; all have lost the way; all are in need of redemption. These are the commonalities that give theological statements meaning. Without them, there could be no “Truth” written with a capital “T.”

When you think about it, it’s what we have in common that underlies our relationship with Scripture. Words written long ago about other people, to other people, matter to us because we have so much in common with them. Our similarities with the people of the Bible far outweigh our differences. We moderns may have cell phones and air conditioners, but such distinctions are trivialized by all humanity’s shared Creator and fallen nature and need for a Savior.  It is this spiritual common ground that encourages us to believe soul-remedies offered to the ancients can heal us; that divine promises made to them can apply to us. In all the important ways, every man and woman is “a peece of the Continent, a part of the maine(John Donne’s words) and has much in common with the rest of mankind, regardless of times and circumstances.

Because we are not unique, because we have so much in common, it is possible (in fact, it is necessary) to talk about “patterns.” There are “patterns” embedded in the human condition. There are “patterns” that mark the manner in which God interacts with us. There are “patterns” that define the rhythms, the ebb and flow, of our existence. The idea of “pattern” becomes powerful because human beings have so much in common, because God is “the same yesterday, today, and forever,” and because there really is “nothing new under the sun.”

[This article was first published as a part of a Wineskins special publication edited by Edward Fudge on “Patternism”–]