“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. 5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” (Colossians 3:1-5)
Museums are tough for me. My daughter can stare at a painting for a long time and see things that I cannot see. I tell her that it’s because she has a degree in Art. She says it’s because I don’t take the time to stare at it.
The intervention of God in human history is an act of such cosmic proportions – that it can’t be appreciated by a simple glance. It must be stared at. That’s all God requires from us. Faith. Trust. He takes over from there. If the gospel is true, it will resonate with us. And the more it resonates with us, the more captivated we will become of his grace in our lives.
And the more we relish this, the less enthralled we become with our own “earthly” means of rescue and self-preservation which are often developed out of our vulnerability as children and re-enacted in our adult lives. These take many different forms, often sophisticated forms of playground bullying or escapism.
Take for instance the use of high ethical standards. It doesn’t matter what you choose to look down your nose at your neighbor. Moral arrogance is as bad as sexual or racial arrogance. And arrogance breeds bigotry. And bigotry leads to violence and disintegration. We should not be silently complicit when it comes to injustice and violence, but neither should we assume that we know more than our neighbor. When “justice” is spoken out of arrogance it merely uses high ethical standards to return one form of bigotry with another.
The height of our arrogance is seen in our attitude towards the Creator himself. It began in the Garden when our first parents presumed to know more than their Creator. When we substitute God with ourselves, the destruction and disintegration hits a cosmic scale. Who can save us from ourselves?
God did so in a way unimaginable. We substituted God with ourselves. This is what the bible calls “sin.” God reversed this by becoming one of us. He substituting humanity with Himself in the person of Jesus. He took the penalty for our violence towards creation and the Creator himself – and he credited to us a ‘moral righteousness’ based on His work and record – not ours – thereby neutralizing any basis for self-righteousness, arrogance and pride.
Christians believe this actually, historically happened. This “gospel” is what Sanctuary attempts to share and spread – first through ourselves, and then through the city – in word, deed, and community. When we trust it, it re-frames everything – as you can imagine something this extraordinary would.
So let’s stare at it for awhile.