Recently, I’ve been reading about some counter-cultural people. They saw little to no difference between their temporal and eternal identity as a Christian. There was little tension between them as heaven-bound, while they lived lives that were also tethered into their place historically here on earth as a Christian.
“Christian” was more than a mere name indicating what faith they chose. “Christian” was more than a label they hung about their necks, it was the life of crucifixion. They lived lives as though not for themselves, but the lives of someone else–everyone else. It may be seen as a religion. But all in all, it was not religion in the sense of what one does, what one believes, or where one fellowships on the weekend. It was a public declaration by their witness, verbally and otherwise, that their lives were not their own.
Regardless of what they said of themselves, or the name of a particular club, group, family, rank, social class, school, occupation, vocation, or position, or payer on their paycheck, they were seen as Christians. It didn’t matter what others said of them or they of themselves. They were lights that anyone could see. They were a city on a hill. They could not be missed.
They are distinguished as light-bearers and name-bearers for Christ by the way they lived for a purpose not their own. They didn’t see their lives as their own. Therefore their actions were not determined by their natural lusts. They didn’t see their families, possessions, or places in society as their own. Their identity was not gone altogether, but it was changed. It was no longer Paul who was living, but Christ in him–at work in him (Gal. 2:20).
They are individuals who were not preoccupied with success, monetary gain, power, position, pleasure, or selfish ambition. Their motives were not those of self. Who are these people?
What makes them tick?
Why would someone give up momentary comfort for inconvenience, struggle, illness, persecution, unpopularity, mockery, and public disgrace?
Paul was the first one mentioned. He didn’t care what his culture thought of him. He didn’t convert as much as God arrested him. He didn’t change his mind, his mind was opened. He didn’t change address, he was an alien with no place on this planet to rest. He did not go on a short-term missions trip, his life became entirely missional. He didn’t take a job at church, he became the church.
Who else would lay their life down for their friend? A Christian would because he would not see his life as his own–he understands that he doesn’t have anything that wasn’t given to him.
Sanctus, too, has a new and radical identity. He was more than a mere convert to an illegal cult. He gained a new identity, which in his culture, meant that he would be killed. The cost was one life for one life — one short-term life of lie and deceit, for one eternal life of truth and purity. He knew that if he was no longer merely Sanctus, but a Christian, that he was going to be martyred. “What is your name?” the prosecuting interrogators questioned. I am Christian, was his reply. “What is your name?” Again, “I am Christian.” A third time, would mean a swift and violent death. “What is your name?” A third time, “I am Christian.” Then, the Roman guards fed Sanctus to wild animals amidst a coliseum full of witnesses.
Who else would lay down for Christ? St. Augustine would because he recognized that he was totally incapable of living if it were not for God’s grace. His life was not his. It never was. Anyone who held that belief was deceived.
Later, we find that John Calvin had a radical identity. His life was on fire. He couldn’t be slowed down. John was a workaholic for the ministry. He was a missionary, a minister, a disciple, a marriage and family counselor, a political and religious pillar. He was viewed as a heretic because he read God’s Word in its original languages and it was understood that the church could not offer salvation or forgiveness of sins. His faith said that man is incapable of recognizing one’s need for grace, seeking after it, atoning for his own sin, and remaining in the faith without Sovereign help from God. Belief that an exercise of one’s will beyond the work of Grace is the sin of pride. It is the elevation of man’s nature to that of less than totally depraved. It is this same sin that banished Lucifer from heaven, and the same sin that he uses to tempt Eve and the 2nd Adam, Christ himself. (To have more power, stuff, ability, knowledge, less pain, less struggle, more of life outside of God’s way.)
Jonathan Edwards comes along and shows us that his identity as a Christian is the only way to enjoy God and to live the life that we were designed to live. We are hid in him. We are founded in him. He is our identity. When we take in a breath of air into our lungs, we give praise, for the air and the pair of lungs are both given to us by a loving and merciful God. When we examine grace, the cosmos, from the grandest heavenly bodies to the minutiae of micro biology, we are beholding the very invisible attributes of a Sovereign Lord.
“Life is for rent, and nothing I have it truly mine.” Dido
I want to end this post with one expression. This culture cannot redeem me. I do not seek it’s approval or applause, nor will anyone who does ever find it.