Today we’re continuing in Paul’s prayer at the heart of the letter, chapter 3: 14-21. Paul is not satisfied to simply tell us about the good news of God in Christ. He wants to pray us into it. To move knowledge of God from our heads to our hearts, so that we can live in the wonder and truth of God’s good will for us and all things, in everything that we do.
The Christian life isn’t just about giving assent to the right things. It’s learning to live, fully and freely, in the way that we were made to live. It’s to cast off the things that bind and weigh us down—the sin, the muck that clings to us and keeps us from living completely in right relationship with God, our true selves, each other, and all creation—so that we can begin to be the answer to the prayer that Jesus taught us: that God’s kingdom would come on earth as in heaven. We get to be living signs, what Paul calls elsewhere, “first fruits”—the promise of a greater harvest—of the world as it will be when God gets the world that God wants.
To get us there, Paul prays this: “that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love.”
This is a wild thing. It tells us that the life of the Trinity—God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—is intimately at work in us and through us. This is important. Earlier, we heard that Paul was bowed in prayer for us, before the Father from whom every family in heaven and earth takes its name—the Divine Parent outlandishly committed to us.
Then, in the last episode, we considered what it means to be caught up with God’s Spirit. And I think most people are ok with the idea that there is a spiritual element to our lives. Our experience bears this out. There is more going on than we can touch and taste and see. There is life beyond the end of our noses.
The trouble is, when we talk about being spiritual, that can be pretty vague. Spirituality is a nebulous reality. Even Jesus says in John’s gospel that even the Holy Spirit is like the wind that blows where it pleases, impossible to pin down.
That’s the Spirit who is at work in us, to grow us in strength according to the riches of the glory of God. But here Paul takes another, kind of breathtaking, step. He prays that by the Spirit, Christ himself would dwell in our hearts through faith. Christ, God who can be touched, is made deeply intimate with us by the Holy Spirit. God’s intimacy (The Holy Spirit) makes God’s most intimate self-revelation, God’s love for us made fully know, Jesus himself, known to us in the depths of our heart.
I’m not sure that this is an image that gets better by explaining it. This is another reality that is best prayed and meditated on, chewed over, settled into. It’s a profound reality.
But it’s also an invitation to recognize that our lives are an extension of God’s work in Jesus, in and for the world. If Jesus is alive in our hearts through faith—that is, trust in his will and way—(For Christians, faith isn’t knowing all the right answers, it’s trusting the One who does—the One who tells us that he is the way, the truth, and the life. I heard someone ask the other day, “What would Jesus have to do for you that he has not already done, in order for you to trust him…”). When we learn to trust in Jesus, we become more and more deeply rooted and grounded in the love of God for us and for all things. We become signs of that love. We begin to conform our lives to the shape and pattern of that love.
The word “Christian” began as a kind of insult. It means “little Christ”. The early church was mocked for living their lives according to God’s dream for the world, made known in Jesus. And like the saints in every generation, when we live that way, we look weird in the world. Christians are supposed to look weird enough in the world as it is, that when God get’s the world God wants, we’ll fit right in. In cahoots with Jesus, we become people radically (from the root down) committed, from our very core, to learning how to love God and the world God loves, with everything we’ve got and come what may.
It is weird. And it’s glorious.
May it be so.