In Christ... seriously?
My sophomore year of high school, I happened to like a girl I met at church. I wasn’t certain about her feelings toward me but she was always nice and seemed fairly interested. So one day I pulled her aside, told her how I felt, and asked her to be my girlfriend. Her response was odd. “Jay, I’m so sorry. I just don’t feel that way about you. But I love you in Christ!” ........ You love me in Christ? What does that mean? How then do you feel about me outside of Christ? As a Christian, is there even such a thing? I am of the opinion that the phrase in Christ has been much abused by Christians. I'm not pointing fingers here. I'm just as guilty as the next person. I've used the phrase countless times to protect myself in case what I said was either too insincere left on its own or too intimate to share without the protective umbrella of existence within the person of Jesus. In Romans 6, Paul presents a crucial dichotomy in the Christian life. In 6:11 he writes this: “...count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” If viewed only metaphorically, this verse would essentially amount to a shift in paradigm or worldview. Paul would be stating that because of our relationship with Jesus, we are to begin seeing our sinful pasts as being dead and buried, while seeing our futures as being fulfilled under the loving watch of our Father God through the sacrifice of Jesus.
But maybe there's more to it than just that. Maybe there's another way to see it. Maybe Paul meant that we are now in Christ in a literal sense. And maybe he is teaching us that when we surrender ourselves to Christ, something actually dies. The sinful, flawed humanity we previously wore is killed and it no longer takes up residence in us. And maybe Paul is writing that we now begin to exist in the kingdom of God with our whole being; the kingdom as it is here now and as it is to come. In other words, we are reborn here and now, and this rebirth will be fully realized, actualized, and manifested at some point in the future when God fully restores the whole of creation. I cannot help but read passages like Romans 6 with a mystic's eye. Regarding the Biblical passages where Paul writes that we exist in Christ, Gert Pelser writes: “Paul must certainly be talking about a reality that lies beyond the reality of this world ruled by natural senses.” I agree wholeheartedly. The idea of being in Christ only makes sense to me when I let go of reasonable, logical, human sense. You see, I'm crazy enough to believe that Christ actually resides in us and we in him. I can't explain it to you in scientific or mathematical terms. Even art, poetry, and song can't do this truth justice. We don't have colors vibrant enough, words eloquent enough, and notes lovely enough to adequately express the reality of existence in Christ and his presence in us. But I believe it to be true in the realest way possible. It could very well be that this truth seems foreign and nonsensical to us, not because it is so unreasonable and illogical, but rather, because it is more real than any reality we've ever known. When God first created the world, he walked among us (Genesis 3:8) and when he recreates, restores, and redeems the world again someday, he will again walk among us (Revelation 21:3). But for now we live in between those two moments.
So today, take some time to explore the reality that Christ is closer than you think. He is not a distant idea or an unattainable ideal. You are in him and he is in you. This truth can change the whole of your existence and open wide the possibility of entering into an timeless and new reality that exists outside the borders of beginnings and endings.