This writing has been inspired by Wild Blessings: A Dandelion Celebration
Christians vs. Non-Christians?
Sometimes I wonder if it would be better in the modern day for Christians to ditch the term “Christian”. If the world keeps applying it to us – cool. Then we rejoice in it.
This might sound like a shocking statement to some, but it was never calling ourselves Christians that had anything to do with our salvation. A Christian is saved because God has opened their hearts and they have seen that Jesus is Lord and they have given their lives to Him in faith. Such a one is saved whether they call themselves a Christian or not. On the other side of that same coin, a person may call themselves a Christian and not have met Jesus yet.
It is important to remember that there was a significant period of time that a saved growing number of people existed before the term “Christian” was eventually applied. At that time they merely referred to the movement as “the way”. When the term “Christian” was applied, it began in the heathen, not in the Christians themselves. In those days, the disciples encouraged the believers to rejoice in being called that name – in the same fashion that they were encouraged to rejoice when they were reviled for the sake of Christ. So it is not a dishonour – especially in that setting – to be called a Christian – even if those calling us that name were to mean it as a dishonour.
But terrain and dynamics change over time. Somewhere in the last 2000 years the ‘western world’ has been ‘Christianized’ to some measure. Today a lot of people embrace the name of “Christian” much more than they embrace the Person of Christ.
It would be better to have Christ and not call yourself a Christian than it would be to call yourself a Christian and not embrace Christ. Let’s embrace Christ, and let the world call us what they want to. If it is derogatory, let’s follow the early disciples’ advice again, and rejoice in it for Christ’s sake. It’s not about what we want to be or what we like to identify as or what we like to think of ourselves as and call ourselves.
Everybody wants to be a good person and belong to something reputable or honourable; there is nothing extraordinary about wanting that. What is extraordinary on the other hand is a person who embraces Christ over their reputability in society – or even at the cost of it in some places. When the unbelieving world then applies a term of ill-reputation onto us, Christ is exalted when we rejoice in that, for there He is seen to be more precious to us than our reputation. That gets the world’s attention. It is not extraordinary to like calling ourselves Christians. It is extraordinary, on the other hand, to rejoice in being called a Christian – especially if there is an air of derogatory in it.
In All His Blazing Meekness
Today, the idea of what a Christian is has lost a lot of accurate potency, and has picked up a lot of misinformed error. And I’m talking about among the Christians themselves. The early church was much more closely connected to the long Jewish historic story that led to the appearance of the long-prophesied Messiah – who turned out to be Jesus of Nazareth, in all his unexpected humility.
Before Jesus, humility was never a cherished character-virtue anywhere in the world. Jesus’ humility was actually quite disappointing for many. Even one of His own disciples was so disappointed that He betrayed Him. Where was the glorious overthrow of Rome? Where were the 12 thrones being prepared for his 12 disciples?
If it weren’t for His resurrection, the whole thing would have sunk, going down in history as just another confusing, misguided false-messiah. But He rose, and people saw that He did, and it vindicated all His life of love leading to His death. He rose: He indeed is the Messiah – but He sure did it differently than we expected. Thus was born the Church, when He ascended to His throne in Heaven, and sent His own life-essence to be infused into them, making them a new humanity.
The Rehumanized Amidst the Dehumanized
And there is the rub; there is my point. They had no title yet. At first, they still believed this was a merely Jewish movement. And for a great while it continued as if it were merely a Jewish story. They just saw themselves as true Jews, following in the most Jewish way: in the way of the long-prophesied Jewish Messiah. They didn’t see themselves as something extra to the Jews, launching away from Jewishness. Rather, they saw Jesus as the most Jewish thing a Jew could do; and those who didn’t get it were not following their own Jewishness. And that’s actually very accurate. As the Spirit caused the Church to open its arms to the Gentiles, the Gentile world was being welcomed and en-grafted into the Jewish story continuing in Jesus: one body of Jews and Gentiles whom Jesus united in Himself by abolishing the walls between.
The most accurate way to see this situation is not “Christians” versus “Non-Christians”; that’s a modern conception. The title “Christian” came after, and remains secondary in its nature. Primarily, though, the way to see this new arrangement in the world is the “restored humanity” versus the “unrestored humanity” (or perhaps, the “pre-restored humanity”). Even simpler, let’s describe “restored humanity” as the “rehumanized” – and to get it right, let’s change the “versus” to “amidst”. So here, I suggest, might be a fresh but accurate description of the new situation that Jesus and the Holy Spirit brought into play in the world: “The rehumanized living amidst the dehumanized – versus the forces that dehumanized them; forces which have been defeated by the cross.” That’s pretty cool.
What’s with all this “dehumanized rehumanized” talk? That right there, friends, is a significant point, I submit, where our understanding of the good news (gospel) has drifted from the original – in ways that are subtle but nevertheless profound. It’s actually simple, so when we get it, it clicks, and it makes us happy and excited, because in Christ God came to save us.
How did God save humans? By becoming a human. So what did He save? Our humanity. Make sense?
Why would He do that? Well, what else is He going to do? Save us into becoming something else? We’ve never been anything else. We weren’t non-human before the fall, and the fall didn’t make us human after having been something else.
Our humanity is not a curse or corruption. Rather, our humanity was corrupted. Our humanity is not a curse – it’s actually quite the opposite: our humanity is what God created; we were most human before the fall. The fall was our dehumanization. Sin degrades and dehumanizes us; it destroys the image we are of our God who created us. In our whole, original, intended humanness we perfectly reflected into the creation who God is. Now we don’t. But Christ came – as a human – to restore that. Now in Christ we are being rehumanized, and in our rehumanization we are once again properly reflecting who God really is into this earth – and that heals the earth – because that is how God set things up!
This is much closer, I believe, to how the early Church understood who they were. Thus, they had no title that they called themselves, though the world may slap a label on them. They saw themselves as saved humans being changed back into what a normal human actually is like with Christ living in them. They were “regenerated” human beings. They were restored humanity, being rehumanized by the Holy Spirit of Christ within them. They were humans being brought back to normal humanity, thanks to God’s great grace and forgiveness.
Regeneration of Humanity and Earth
It naturally flows then, that out of the new humanity’s rehumanizing salvation will also flow the healing of the gift she was given – earth. Earth will rejoice as its humans are healed by the Spirit’s rehumanizing work. This is so Biblical. Dig in, sink in, soak up and see it! I won’t list all the verses and passages coming to mind as I write this.
We are saved by Christ’s death and resurrection. Our spiritual salvation in Christ is the death of our old, corrupted man and the resurrection of a new man. That pattern; that cross-and-resurrection-generated salvation-and-newness works its way from the inside out; from spirit through soul through body – and through the earth.
We were saved by crucifying the old and raising the new. The point I am getting to is the fact that ultimately this is the same pattern that finishes through all things. Just as it happened in our spirits through Christ, so also this old, corrupted physical body of ours will die, and we will be raised with a new body – because of Christ. And also for the whole created order: the old will be brought out so that the new earth will come in – compatible and reunited with Heaven and God’s full presence.
Death can only be defeated by resurrection if death happens. So Jesus wanted death to happen to Him – to prove His victory over it – as a sinless human. Christ proved that death is now defeated by resurrection, and sin is defeated by sinlessness. It’s as if He said to death and sin, “Take your best shot. Give it all you got! Let’s see if I can handle it!” The greater the blow, the more glorious the victory over it. Evil was exhausted on Jesus. That is, there was nothing left with Satan’s forces; the darkness spent everything to kill Jesus. Jesus received the worst; He went all the way; He let the worst come upon Him – so that He could prove His total defeat over all the worst. And His resurrection sealed the absolute assuredness of our own resurrection – as humans.
So where does this all lead, or how does it all consummate? Simple: normal humanity living perfect lives on normal earth – as was originally intended (but even better this time). Perfect lives are perfect because God is purely adored and worshiped in them. That is the essence and nature of Heaven, and the new earth – and our new spirits already.
There is no disharmony in any relationships in Heaven (here-forward meaning also ‘the new earth’). None between humans and God, none between humans and each other, and none between humans and the earth that their Father gladly gave to them. The restored normal order has absolutely no knowledge of friction or disharmony anywhere in it. Not a trace of it. The concept itself is banished from all things and all minds. The knowledge of good and evil is no longer present, for this is rather the tree of life. The universe is as it should be: there is no evil to know, and therefore no “good” to know; only life, life, life! Christ, Christ, Christ! The knowledge of good and evil – and a sense of shame with it – are all unnecessary, and gone. Christ is everything; all in all! He is righteousness and life; and His life fills everything and is the essence of everything in the new world.
Rehumanized humans live in community in perfection, because they know only love, and have become love in Christ. I’m still talking about the destiny we are being reserved for, protected for, and prepared for. Through the Spirit in us now, we are beginning to experience the first foretastes of this life, and we are learning it and practicing it and encouraging ourselves with it and in it. With no sin, and no knowledge of good and evil, and all being fully-filled with the perfections of Christ Himself, how can there be any trace of shame there? There is no trace of shame anywhere in anyone in Heaven. There are no dark corners in anyone’s heart; no fears of anything being discovered, nor fears of being less than or being seen as less than. In this community, love has made humans what they are supposed to be. They are all whole, and like-God, because of His love perfected in them. Therefore no law is needed; no needed description from the outside. For there is no deviation from – nor shadow against – perfection. The law already exposed our deviation now, in these days, and led us to Christ to be our saving life. But there, in our destiny, we are everything we are supposed to be, so the descriptive law given in this corrupted age falls away like a no-longer-needed peel; we are it – because of Christ.
Relationship-Destiny of Man and Earth
God’s love extends through humans into all creation; that is the intended design. True ‘tree-huggers’ love and worship the Creator, not the creation. Rehumanized humans love the earth God has given them – because God has given it to them. Normal, restored humanity extends Father’s nurturing love into all creation. We hug each other with God’s love, and we make God’s loving hug known to all creation and everything in it. When we ‘hug a tree’, it is because we have been hugged by God. His hug gives life to all things – through rehumanized humans. The great hug of God fills the earth. It is a reliable code: Did He create it? He loves it.
In the new earth, there is no death. There is no fear there. Fear is an unknown concept. Death is completely unnatural. By definition, it is anti-nature. But it doesn’t exist there, for the world has been saved and made normal by Christ. In a perfect new world there is nothing but life and harmony in and between earth and humanity. No work needs to be done out of stress or fear or a need to survive. We do work, but work itself is also redeemed back to what it was meant to be. No toil or fear or need-to-survive are in it. Love provides and protects, we know only life, and we work purely and only as love-given acts of overflowing joy and thankful love; and we work only with the close presence of Christ. Christ is all and in all. All harmony, through and through all the cosmos!
Picture it: shameless humans enjoying and gathering the joyful fruit of a life-giving earth given to them, all in perfect connection with the earth and in perfect community with one another. If you think about it, basically we will be immortal hippies living in bliss. We will be rehumanized permahippies! This is the true peace, love and harmony!
Endless Harmonious Wholeness
The modern concept of “progress” is a word that describes our attempt to regain everything we lost at the fall. We’re continuously unsatisfied, always striving to regain perfection, always running from death. That’s basically what is driving what we call “human progress”.
But we had it all before the fall – and yet we would have worked and done amazing things, and made amazing things. We would have created beautiful functioning cities and societies in perfect love: not out of a driving fear or need, but all without stress, anxiety or any sense of rush. It would only have been our joy and love that delighted to make things even better. That is the nature of Heaven: it is perfect from the get-go, yet somehow we can make more things because of God’s amazing grace. It will be fun, exciting and exhilarating.
Our “progress” will not produce any materials harmful to the earth (or us). We will only make materials that benefit everything; and we will also only make those materials in ways that are themselves harmonious and beneficial. But even if any harmful material were to be produced, nothing there will actually be harmable anyway. And neither will we live in a closed system; we will never run out of land or resources. All the resources we will ever enjoy or find use for will be infinitely unlimited. We will never risk running out of anything or using up anything there.
This is what God did for us. Isn’t He awesome?