Out of my Mind…
Exploring the Kingdom
II Corinthians 5:17: Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!
In case you haven’t noticed, I am not perfect. If this at all seems a surprising revelation to any of you, simply ask my children, wife and/or co-workers. They will confirm my report.
Most days, I find myself liberated rather than defeated by this reality. No longer am I crushed and dispirited by my own imperfection. Instead, I think I have truly come to treasure and rely on the grace that both saves us and, in the end, transforms us when we can do neither on our own power or merit.
I’m also revived and challenged by the truth that I am not yet perfect. You see, I also really believe the truth of this text, that in Christ, you and I can become people and a community that is being radically and divinely recreated. I believe that—with my whole heart—and see it as a central truth within the whole gospel message. To me it is an inspiring reality!
Being “in Christ,” of course, was one of the most dominant themes in Pauline theology. Much more than a one-time conversion event, Paul truly believed that being “in Christ” enabled Jesus’ people to live moment-by-moment in his life and power. “In Christ,” Jesus people were branded and banded together by the Holy Spirit and initiated into a life-transforming experience of personal and communal renewal. Finally, a people “in Christ” were sent out into the world to proclaim and demonstrate the good news that Christ is Lord and that his Kingdom is present on earth. Paul really believed it was possible—and he continued to call people to this world-changing vision—despite the fact it was not yet so.
I live in that hope, too. It is a hope that has been at the heart of the Friends movement since our inception. You see, our call has been to learn to know and obey Christ in all things. And as a people, we have been called to embody the life and power of Christ in the world. We do this, not on our own strength and wisdom, but through our reliance on the Life and Power that is at work in us. Such a vision has not only shaped our view of personal spirituality, evangelism and discipleship but also driven our compassion, peace andjustice ministries.
The problem, however, is that a lot of the time we get ourselves turned around and focused, not on Christ and his Kingdom, but on our selves and other interests.
I want to continue to explore the theme of being a Kingdom people over the next few months with you but for now, I wonder if we might all consider our need to turn, once again, toward Christ and away from self and sin.
At the outset of his earthly ministry, this was Jesus’ admonition to us: “Repent (turn to God and away from self/sin)! For the Kingdom is among you!” And while that commitment to repent and believe often begins in a clear moment in time, at least in my experience, it remains a continual act of turning, turning, turning toward Jesus.
In this season of life, I feel a hopeful, challenging and urgent call to turn. I’m turning to Christ—to receive mercy, to find acceptance, to pledge my allegiance, to find my identity, to see my example, to hear my call, to know that real Life and Power of God.
As I turn to Christ, I am mindful that I am also turning to his people—to learn the way of love, to find support and accountability, to share my gifts, to serve and lead as appropriate, to lay down my life for their sake and the sake of the world Christ loves.
And I also clearly see the need to turn from my self and sin—away from arrogance, away from pride, away from cynicism, away materialism, away from greed, away from violence, away from fear, away from bitterness, away from complaint, away from manipulation, away from all of the ‘isms” that presume I am better than others, away from all of those secret and not-so-secret sins that harm others and dishonor my God.Though some of you may wish I was turning faster, I’m turning nonetheless. Pray for me, will you?