No More Portable Jesus.

No More Portable Jesus. December 28, 2015
Christ at Heart's Door
Christ at Heart’s Door

It can take years of study for a fish to see water. It did for me.

Prepositions in the Water

What got me thinking of the, “fish don’t know what water is” illustration is a preposition, a little one. The preposition in. It’s a tremendously important one for evangelicals. It’s at the heart of our evangelism. We want people to invite Jesus into their hearts.

Evangelicals don’t use icons, except those by Warner Sallman. His are sacred. We used to have them in every church foyer. (I’m sure Harold Bloom could tell us why.)

When it comes to the evangelical icon for evangelism, I’m thinking of Sallman’s Christ at Heart’s Door.

Sallman’s Jesus is eerily comforting. He’s an inward Jesus, a Jesus of small spaces and quiet chats. Money changers have nothing to fear from him–why, if they’d only invite him into their hearts he could be their inner friend too.

You would think with all the stress on asking Jesus into your heart the New Testament would be full of it. But it hardly mentions it. At least, not in the way we seem to mean it.

There’s Ephesians 3:17, “…that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.” Then there’s Paul in Galatians 4:19. (But that’s about Christ being formed in his hearers. It’s something Paul is working for, like a mother forming a child in the womb), Then there’s Colossians 1:27, “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” But none of that seems to be what Sallman’s painting is getting at. Yes, I know the painting is intended to illuminate Revelation 3:20. But I’m not so sure it does even that. That text is about repentance under discipline–for Christians.

Just so you know, I’m all for Jesus dwelling in me. But if the stress is to be placed anywhere, I suspect that it is more important for me to dwell in him.

No More Portable Jesus

When it comes to the use of the preposition “in” overwhelmingly the New Testament reverses our order. Christians live “in Christ”. I did a little query in the ESV and the count, if you include pronouns, is well above 170 occurrences.

Think about that.

As you do, think about this: why do I even have to bring this to your attention? How did we manage to gloss over all those references to being “in Christ”?

The reason, I believe, is modern people prefer the psychology of personal piety to politics. And that shows that we don’t even understand piety, at least not in the way the ancients did. Piety was all about hierarchy and honor for them.

Let’s step back a minute. It just comes down to size. Who is in whom depends upon who is bigger. Jesus is bigger than the rest of us. He’s not portable, we are.

When I brought up politics a moment ago your mind may have gone to John Howard Yoder and his book, The Politics of Jesus. I’m not a pacifist. And whenever I read Yoder I think, “Huh, I never knew Jesus was a Mennonite.” And Jesus isn’t a Mennonite; he isn’t even an egalitarian. He is the Son of God, and that means he is the heir of all things.

When I say “all”, I mean it. It means you and I get nothing. It’s like a birthday party for a kid who not only gets all the presents, he gets the whole cake, he wins every game, and to top it off, we all sing happy birthday to him.

Primogeniture and Salvation

Primogeniture isn’t a word you use every day. In much of the western world it is even illegal. But that doesn’t keep the Father from practicing it. Primogeniture is the law of inheritance in which an entire estate is given to the first born son.

The residue of the practice is still with us in surprising places. That real property for example. The “real” in real property is not opposed to “false” property, it is opposed to “my” property. Real property, as in the case of real estate, belongs to the king. It is royal property. When we purchase real property we are purchasing the right to use, not an absolute right. If you doubt me, stop paying taxes on your house and see what happens.

We don’t know what to make of that. It just seems so patriarchal and retrograde. And that’s why we don’t get it–even though its like water to a fish. It is all over the New Testament. Jesus is the heir of all things because he is the only begotten Son of God. We’ve been cut out of the inheritance.

But there is a way in. That’s the good news. We can join him; we can enter into him.

When we do that, when we believe in him and confess him as Lord, we are incorporated into him and made his joint heir. (That’s what Galatians 3:28 is really about.) That means everything that belongs to him is ours as well as we live in him. We get the whole deal–the resurrection, the justification, the ascension, the glory–all of it, even creation itself.

Salvation is bigger than you or me because Jesus is.

Jesus doesn’t just live in my heart, he’s seated at the Father’s right hand. My heart is just a tiny replica of the real throne room. From that throne the Lord judges the church and the nations.  Now that’s the politics of Jesus.

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment