Paul is so abundantly clear on the point that we are not justified by the works of the Law but by faith in Jesus Christ and that we receive the Spirit by faith and not by the Law that I won’t spend much time on it here. In a different age, I would probably spend much more time arguing that we are saved by faith and not by the Law, but I don’t think that’s the main danger today. Here is my one warning: Don’t do it! Don’t confuse the cause of your salvation. Don’t begin in Christ and end with yourself and what you do because it is never about what you do by yourself.
So we know that it is all about faith, but sometimes, as I mentioned yesterday, we have a tendency to objectify faith as if it is this thing called faith that saves us. Now how can faith, by which we often mean an intellectual assent to certain truths, save us? Are we egotistical enough to think that my merely saying I think certain things are true, even essential things, will save me?
Isn’t it more accurate to say that it is faith in and faithfulness to Jesus Christ who saves me? Isn’t it Jesus Christ who saves me, and not any thing I do? One of the temptations we Protestants have is, in one of the grandest ironies known to the human race, to make faith into the one work necessary to save us.
But I want to talk today about the nature of this faith, especially the idea of keeping Jesus Christ, who lives in me, before me so that moment by moment I can participate in Him and dwell in Him. Paul says that before the eyes of the Galatians Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among them as crucified. This is what I want to focus on this today. We all are aware of the importance of faith and not thinking we can be saved by the works of the Law, but I think it’s very possible that we don’t spend enough time thinking about and feeding this faith that we profess to value so highly.
The interesting thing about St. Paul’s comment to the Galatians concerning the clear portrayal of Christ as crucified among them is that unlike the apostles, including Paul, the Galatians had never seen Jesus Christ, not even in a vision. Their faith, though encouraged by the Spirit and by miracles, was not one based on having seen Jesus Christ and Him crucified.
How, then, are we, who have not seen Jesus Christ, supposed to have our faith nourished? It’s become one of my favorite questions and one I’ve begun to think more deeply about. I believe that we are always to carry about Christ with us, that somehow we are all Christophers – “Christ bearers.” We carry around His death in us that we might carry around His life in us (2 Cor. 4:10-11). We are to have Jesus Christ always before our eyes, like the frontlets and phylacteries that the Jews were supposed to have to remind them of the Law.
This entire world is not, contrary to Douglas Adams and The Hitchhiker’s Guide, a gigantic computer created to answer the question of the meaning of life, the universe, and everything – but pretty close! The earth and all that therein is was created to be a sacrament of God, to remind us of who God is and to teach us who He is. Everything in this life is supposed to be a reminder of God and His goodness to us.
It is especially the job of the Church, as the Body, the earthly, real, manifestation of Jesus Christ, to reveal and present Jesus Christ before the world – and especially before the Church. It is through us, who are the Temple of the Holy Spirit, that the angels are taught the wisdom of God, and it is through us, God with us, that He most reveals Himself (outside of His revelation through His Son).
So this morning I propose that we all find better and more numerous ways to remind each other about God, the God who became man and who loved us enough to send His Son. The God who died for us, the Christ who is to be clearly pictured as crucified before our eyes. Let us create pictures of the glory and work of God and pictures of His Son and His saints – real pictures, living icons. But let us also create more vivid pictures – the lives that we lead among each other, as we eat our bread gladly from house to house, sharing our lives with each other, having our lives in common in true community. Let us constantly be talking to one another in spiritual songs and hymns about God and what He has done for us and therefore who we are.
When Paul says that Christ was clearly portrayed “among you,” I think that part of what this means is that Christ is most clearly portrayed when He is portrayed among us, together, and not each by himself, wandering and forgetful and distorted.
Let’s find all the ways we can every day to remind each other about God and what He desires for us and from us. Let’s paint vivid pictures of the Christ who was born and died and resurrected and ascended for us, and let’s share them with each other.
And let’s each find as many ways today as possible to keep Jesus Christ before us, before our eyes, lodged in our neurons, working in our fingers, tingling in our ears. When you have that odd moment in the day and you reach to play the next game of Free Cell or daydream or worry or however you fill those interstices of black space that form the background of our inner galaxies – next time, imagine Jesus Christ before you.
One way I’ve developed (I’ve probably mentioned it before) is to keep little tick marks on my daily planner. My goal is to turn, however briefly, to God before every activity I do, no matter how small. I’m not really very good at it, but at least I’ve begun. “Protect me, Lord, as I drive this morning.” “Thank you God for coffee.” “Thank you, God, for a moment’s rest.” “Bless my conversation with my son, Lord.” It’s something that motivates me, to see the little tick marks become a group of 5 and, if I’m blessed that day, become 10 or more.
Whatever it takes, however we do it: let’s make sure we find ways to make sure that Jesus Christ is clearly portrayed in each other’s lives today.
Prayer: Father, I pray that You would send Your Son before my face today that I might better see You through Him. Help me to look for Your presence today and to share You with others. Increase my faith and unbewitch my eyes that I might see You once again. Amen.
Point for Meditation:
- What would be the best way for you to remember to portray Christ before you every moment of every day? You may want to find a partner to help you do this, as you help them.
- Make a list of the various ways that Jesus Christ may potentially come to you, so that you are more ready to receive Him.
Resolution: Whatever it takes, however you do it, make sure to find one way to make sure that Jesus Christ is clearly portrayed in your life and in the life of another person today.
Tally Marks – U.S. Public Domain