Monday, April 1, 2013

big deal over a small word: IN

Observing an indoor fountain. 
Quite a bit different from being in one.
I recently decided to give Twitter another go; for the most part, I have been following theologians and writers who engage with theological issues.  Miroslav Volf (author of Exclusion and Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation as well as numerous other titles) has been tweeting about inclusive and exclusive models of redemption. In the exclusive view, Christ's death on the cross is a punishment for the sin of humanity and as a result, God saves us.  In an inclusive view, we die with Christ the God/human and God removes sin from us because we are in Christ.  The distinction might seem small (the point is that we are free from consequences of sin, right, so what's the big deal?), but the position in which we place ourselves in God's salvation story has far-reaching implications. In the first model we are separate from Christ and watch from a distance as our salvation unfolds; in the second, we are embraced by Christ (and we embrace him) and through our proximity to him, we die to sin and live in God.  We are in effect participants in Christ's story.
Television and movies have done us a bit of a disservice; through their proliferation, many of us have become somewhat desensitised to stories of pain and death and therefore less able to empathise and identify with real suffering.  We also get so used to passively watching someone else's drama and adventure unfold from the safety and comfort of our couch that we can find it increasingly difficult to engage with, identify with, and care about the experiences of others.  As a result, the bloody, gruesome details of Jesus' death can seem like just another scene in a violent action adventure movie.  But they're not. 

Yesterday, Easter Sunday, our faith community progressed through various stations of the cross as we traced the road that Jesus took from the time he was wrongly condemned to the moment when, hovering on the threshold of death, he uttered, "It is accomplished!"  And unlike so many Easter Sundays before, this time I did not feel like I was watching it from a distance. It was my story, too.  When I held up a large piece of flat bread, said the words, "This is my body, broken for you," and then ripped it in two with my hands, I shuddered at the tearing.  When I lifted the glass of dark red wine to my lips, the words "This is my blood, poured out for you" still fresh on my tongue, the liquid was thick with suffering, death, and love.  When we eat the body of Christ in the form of bread and drink his blood in the form of wine, we are participating in his life and death.  We are reminding ourselves that we are not thousands of years away from this event.

Being in Christ means we walk the road with him, we suffer with him, we die with him, we live with him, we participate in his journey.  Like him, we live and die and live again.  Our sorrow is mixed with his, our pain intertwines with his, and our weakness leans on his strength.  And in that resting place, that point of connection, we receive everything that we lack:  hope, acceptance, perseverance, faith, kindness, forgiveness, love, and a second chance at a life that is good, whole, free.  It is no longer our life that we are living; we are inextricably linked to the life of Jesus.  We live in him.  He lives in us.  We are present in his story.

I have been crucified with Christ [in Him I have shared His crucifixion]; it is no longer I who live, but Christ (the Messiah) lives in me; and the life I now live in the body I live by faith in (by adherence to and reliance on and complete trust in) the Son of God, Who loved me and gave Himself up for me. - Galatians 2:20 (Amplified Bible)


  1. Thanks, Matte! Coming from a background in Lutheranism, it was a major shift in our thinking to move beyond "Christ FOR me" to also embrace "Christ IN me." To many counsellees, I have said,"If you never memorize anything else from the scriptures, memorize Galatians 2:20. If it actually gets down inside of you, it will change you completely -- forever!