Birth and death are two wings on the same bird, and that bird’s name is time or temporality. The Christian life is an attitude toward both temporality and Eternity. Strange as it may seem to people of our era, we are each an inescapable relationship with both the Eternal and the temporal. The experience of this paradox can be spelled out in terms of these four words:
In But Not Of
The quality of the Christian life has to do with being “in the world, but not of the world.”
“Not of the world” means an “end-of-time” happening in your present life. It means the coming of a deep detachment from your family, your peers, your citizenship, your culture, your time in history, your self images, your personality habits, your gender, yes even your own body and all its time-bound characteristics. But if your state is only “not of this world” rather than united with “in this world,” your state is aloofness rather than Christian love.
“In this world” is just as important as “not of this world.” “In this world” means an “incarnation” of your “out-of-this-world-ness” in your physical body, your personality habits, your self images, your time in history, your gender, your culture, your citizenship, having your peers and your family, your body. All your temporal relations are fluid; they can change; they can be changed by you; they will change because of your “out-of-this-world-ness.”
Nevertheless, your “in-this-world-ness” does not go away. Some form of “in-this-world-ness” will always be the case. Also, the quality of this “in-this-world-ness” is not entirely up to you. You have been assigned your “in-this-world-ness” by the Infinite Almighty Mysteriousness that has sourced your temporal existence and moves you inexorably toward the end of your temporal existence. At the same time, you are totally responsible for what you do with what you are and with what you can become over the course of your life.
But if your state is only “in this world” rather than united with “not of this world,” your state is despair, torn and scattered by time’s inexorable march. And you will have no sustained attention and objectivity for what the Christian witness is pointing to with the word “love.”
Love of the Christian sort means a total affirmation of every aspect of your particular body, of your personality and changes, of your self images and your recreations of your self images, of your gender, of your ongoing relationships with peers and family, of your culture and how you live it and alter it, of your citizenship and your time in history with its limitations and challenges, plus your responses to some of these challenges and the consequences of those responses.
Love of the Christian sort also includes a total affirmation of your end-of-time detachment form the temporal flow of the world. This absolute uprootedness is your gift of objectivity and creativity in your living in this world. This uprootedness makes you a son or daughter of Eternity rather than a son or daughter of perdition. This uprootedness is your power, your spirit energy, your equanimity, your rest, your hope, your undefeatable quality that no ups or downs of fortune can disrupt.
“In the world, but not of the world” is your human essence, but perfection in manifesting this essence is not to be expected in your real-time living. This is a journey. We may have been born into this quality, but we “press on to the full stature of Christ Jesus,” as the apostle Paul put it. “We were crucified with Christ” Paul said. This means our detachment in being “not of this world.” And we were “raised up in Christ to newness of life,” Paul witnesses. This means our incarnation in being “in this world” as the resurrected body of Christ.
So, what does this “in Christ” symbol mean for Paul? It means a perfection into which we have been joined by a profound transformation of the overall direction of our lives—toward ever greater realism in love-relatedness with Infinite Reality and love-relatedness with all the temporal realities that constitute our lives. But this is a journey. We do not yet manifest this perfection in our personal life or in our social contributions. Let us press on. We are in a cosmic struggle between realism and illusion.
For more study of the “in Christ” symbol, I recommend this essay:
Here Already and Still to Come
Here is the downloading URL for this essay:
And for some companionship in further researching these far-edge topics, put these dates on your 2016 calendar: Friday evening June 10 to Wednesday morning June 15th
This five-day set of two meetings begins Friday evening June 10, 2016 with a carefully orchestrated set of methods for a spirit-retreat on honoring women’s experience led by Joyce Marshall and Pat Webb. This “retreat” lasts until Sunday noon June 12th followed by an afternoon break.
Then, beginning the evening of June 12th, we begin our Research Symposium Meeting on the topic “Is There a Post-Patriarchal Christianity” moving on with related topics until 9:00pm Tuesday evening the 14th. People return home Wednesday morning June 15th.