of God Is Living and Active – Hebrews 4:12.
by the Love of Christ
The call of the Lord as expressed by the apostle
Paul in Second Corinthians is straightforward. He writes that “we are convinced
that one has died for all”.
the love of Christ controls us, because we are convinced that one has died
for all; therefore all have died. And he died for all, that those who live
might live no longer for themselves but for him who for their sake died
and was raised. - 2 Corinthians 5:14-15
Through our lives in covenant community we are
called to follow this teaching. We teach about service; about the necessity
of finding a place in the body where we are not merely “contributing” and
“expressing” but where we are really (in a small way) experiencing some
cost. We teach about embracing humility, lowliness and suffering as a means
to cultivate the desire to “lay down [our]…life for one’s friends” and
to encourage a life where we “honor one another above yourselves”. We also
teach the call to imitate Christ in his life of personal sacrifice and
death on the cross.
As the church moves forward in her mission today,
we may often be discouraged by what we see around us. Christians in many
parts of the world, and some of our own brothers and sisters in the Middle
East and elsewhere, experience intimidation, harassment, and persecution
for their faith and the life of Christian discipleship they seek to live.
Many of our church traditions grapple with public scandal over past and
present sins or suffer their moral and doctrinal teaching to conform to
the standards of the world, seemingly incapable of presenting the truth
through the ever more capricious lens of the media. The politicians of
my own country – the Republic of Ireland – have recently voted to legalize
abortion and take the lives of those most needing protection in our society.
As I meet fellow Christians across this
world, I see a similar pattern in disciples from all different churches,
denominations, cultures and countries. Some have embraced the call of discipleship
and have paid the cost. Some have not embraced it or have turned away.
In our Kairos evangelistic work with university
students and other young people, I meet more and more who know something
of Christ, and may even have a desire to live a life like his, but they
seek to live it their way for themselves. Some days, this is the
life that I live – a life that is controlled by the love of me and what
I want. When I live life this way, Christ may be on my lips, he may be
around my neck, or on my t-shirt, but he is not in my heart, mind, and
soul. I meet more and more disciples like myself – we half crucified Christians
– who know the cost we must pay, and willingly stand in line at the register,
but gladly encourage those behind us to approach.
And then I meet Christians who are controlled
by the love of Christ. They may look, act, and pray somewhat differently
from one another, but they are united by the conviction that “one has died
for us all; therefore all have died.” In this present world which has been
described as “a culture of death,” they have chosen to live a Christ-centered
life that is a kind of living death – praying, working, serving
to bring the kingdom of God – gladly awaiting the time when they can lay
down their own life and go to be with the Master for whom they have died
a long time ago. Some days this is me – would that it were more and more.
I have not spent sufficient time in this present
world to know whether our society is getting objectively worse. I grew
up in an age where governments often seemed to pass laws which weakened
traditional Christian morality and where a good sermon was something to
be noted and commented on rather than expected. Those whose opinion and
grey hairs I trust however, tell me that it is so, and I accept their wisdom
One thing I do recognize, is that it is becoming
easier and easier to spot the Christians who are dying, to see the
men and women who live no longer for themselves but for him - the crucified
and risen one. I believe that we who are called to covenant community,
as well as all Christians, are faced with this same choice once. Most blindingly,
terrifyingly, concretely, and ordinarily once – and (if we choose right)
every day thereafter. To be part of a community, to attend a small group,
or serve in an outreach is no guarantee that I have died and that Christ
now continually lives in me. It is a help for sure, but no guarantee. I
meet those in this world (many thankfully within our community movement)
who are convinced, that one has died for them and that therefore they must
die. They are often raising children, working in tax law, cleaning the
fridge, and painting houses - and you can tell that they are dying all
the same. You can tell because they look so alive. They don’t seem like
they’re trying to talk to you about Christ but they do. You don’t see the
sacrifice of their difficult decisions about them, but you see the life
of Christ that they are living.
This is our mission. To daily pick up our cross
and walk as Christ has walked, and to bring his light and life to the world.
As the world that does not know Christ darkens around us, we will find
the call of discipleship quicker and easier to do if we have really died.
But it will be slower, longer, and harder if we wish to postpone the cost
or tarry in the darkness.
If we have died with Christ, we have no fear of
what the world may do. Our only desire will be to save those in it who
hear and accept the message of eternal life. We have no real affinity with
this present world, for it is passing away and our time here is fleeting.
That it turns against us should neither surprise nor dismay. It can encourage
us to redouble our efforts, knowing that each relationship we have built,
each trust won, each testimony shared is not a wild hopeless shot into
the darkness of a void but a blow with a hammer to a wall which will –
through God’s good work – eventually shatter to reveal the world which
will never pass away.
We may lament the current state of this present
world and its decline, but we must remember that this is not where we are
supposed to finally live. The man who fights behind enemy lines gives no
thought to the plants he tramples in pursuit of victory. He knows there
is a garden kept for him to enjoy at home when the battle is won.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German pastor, theologian
and martyr wrote simply in his spiritual classic – The Cost of Discipleship
Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die.” Make it so in us, Lord
Lynch is a member of the Servants
of the Word, a missionary brotherhood of men living single for the
Lord, and a Mission Director for Kairos, an international outreach to young
people. Tadhg is originally from Nazareth Community, Dublin, Ireland.]