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We Christians often say things like “Jesus is in my life,” or “Jesus is my life.” But do we stop to ask ourselves what, exactly, do those expressions mean? There is a subtle, but vital distinction between Jesus being “in” our lives and Jesus “being” our lives.
The typical understanding of the Christian religion is that it is a system of things to do and to believe, in order to receive eternal life. Although most Christians would agree that they are saved by grace, some think that they must then maintain their salvation through good works. It is as if Jesus “jump-starts” them, but then it is up to them to “stay saved.” But, this misunderstanding completely misses the point about the nature of salvation and is not authentic Christianity.
Authentic Christianity is not another religion. It’s about becoming who Jesus created us to be – not a matter of prioritizing our life to make Jesus number one on our to-do list. The vital distinction is that he does not just come into our lives. Rather, he becomes our life. He has given us a new life in him.
Rather than the emphasis being on our works, or what we do, this new life focuses us on our ongoing fellowship and communion with God, in Christ, or who we are. We belong to Christ and have a bond that is far stronger than one based on “staying ahead of the game” through good works.
I get a glimpse of this when I reenter the United States after a trip abroad. At the airport there are two lines. One is for visitors, who have often had to go through a lengthy process to get their visas. The immigration officials are courteous, but they scrutinize every document and often conduct long interviews. It sometimes takes hours of anxious waiting and if everything is not 100% in order, the hapless visitors may find they are denied entry. If they are allowed in, they have to be careful to obey all the conditions of their visitor’s visa. Sadly, that is the way many Christians feel about their relationship with God.
As an American citizen, I do not have to go through all that. The line for citizens moves much faster. The immigration officer quickly scans my passport and welcomes me home. I have no anxiety. I belong. That is the kind of relationship God offers us.
And of course, this is the kind of relationship all Christians yearn for. However, because it sounds too good to be true, many of us pull back and accept a lesser form of relationship – one that depends on our good behavior. But, you don’t need to live as if you only have a conditional visa to the Kingdom of God.
Paul reminds us, in his Epistle to the Romans, “All who are led by God’s Spirit are God’s sons and daughters. You didn’t receive a spirit of slavery to lead you back again into fear, but you received a Spirit that shows you are adopted as his children. With this Spirit, we cry, ‘Abba, Father’” (Romans 8:14-15, Common English Bible).
In other words, we belong, and there is no need to settle for anything less.
I’m Joseph Tkach, Speaking of LIFE.