A few days ago I wrote a post on the subject of dying with Christ. It was a short post meant to be thought provoking and I think that most people understood it like that. However, a post with such intent is doomed to cause some readers to ask questions about what I really think about the subject at hand. I like reactions of this kind because they offer me some indications on what thoughts you would like me to expand on and sometimes they contain new perspectives that I can use to develop my own reasoning. With that said, this post will be devoted to briefly clarify some of my thoughts on what I meant by the event of dying with Christ.
I understand the event of dying with Christ as the moments of decision to turn away from sin in order to follow the resurrected Christ. In that sense, it is an active response to Jesus’ call for repentance (Matt 4.17) and it results in a life shaped by Jesus’ teachings:
Now by this we may be sure that we know him, if we obey his commandments. Whoever says, “I have come to know him,” but does not obey his commandments, is a liar, and in such a person the truth does not exist; but whoever obeys his word, truly in this person the love of God has reached perfection. By this we may be sure that we are in him: whoever says, “I abide in him,” ought to walk just as he walked. (1 John 2.4-6)
I do not think that the author of these verses believed that it is possible for people to live lives free from sin. If anyone sins, he said, then we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world (v. 1-2). However, the point I would like to make is that when we share in the death of Christ we turn away from the ways of this world and when we live a life in Christ, shaped by his resurrection, it will bear good fruit. Thus, if we say that we abide in him, then we ought to walk just as he walked.
Hence, the Bible seemingly tells us what the result will be if we turn away from sin but what about the moment of turning away, what about the event of dying with Christ – what constitute this event? My thesis is that the Bible does not give a definite answer to this question. There are of course numerous examples throughout the Biblical narrative of people who turn their lives around and starts to follow Christ but the truth is that these stories are all very different. There is, so to speak, no final definition for how one dies with Christ. This, I claim, is a result of the fantastic characteristic of the Judeo-Christian worldview that truth is understood in narrative form.
Everyone’s life is unique and that means that we all have different sins to turn away from, hence every decision to follow Christ rather than the world will look different. I believe that this is what the Biblical narrative reveals to us as we read about different people in different contexts and situations leaving their old lives behind to follow Christ. I also think that this is why the author of 1 John felt the need to write that his readers can be sure about knowing Christ if they obey his commandments rather than providing them with a definite description of what it must have looked like when they turned towards the resurrected Lord.
There is obviously a whole lot more to be said about this subject but I leave you with these thoughts for today. On a final note I would just like to say that this post, as all the others that I write, should be understood to be situated within the framework of God’s grace.