As Christians we are called to let the same mind be in us that was in Christ Jesus and as I explained in my previous post I believe this means that Christian ethics must reject the dualism inherently present in the separation between good and evil. Christian ethics should not concern itself with the distinguishing between good and evil, rather its subject matter is our participation in the Kingdom of God. Now we are at the core of the Christian life and I would like for us to move this discussion back to the cross and our participation in the death of Christ Jesus.
My claim is that the life we experience as a result of our participation in the death of Christ is a life characterized by a communal identity, which gives birth to subjectivity within itself. In other words, to die with Christ means that we die away from a life apart from God, outside God, and this death is what must occur for the resurrected life within the Body of Christ to be attainable. To share in the death of Christ therefore signifies a move away from having our hearts turned upon themselves towards a truly human life in which we know all things in God and God in all things.
Unfortunately this is rarely spoken of within our churches. Rather we are all too often being told that becoming a Christian means that our individual needs will be taken care of, that our fears and anxieties will go away, that we will go to heaven when we die, and so on. Such understandings totally miss the point because the essence of such beliefs is that if we become Christians the world and God will adjust to us. We are thus still the main character within our particular narratives and our lives apart from God remain untouched. Although such believes might prove to be therapeutic they do not move us closer to knowing our true origin and they should therefore be rejected.
To be clear, my understanding that participation in the death of Christ implies that we die away from ourselves does not mean that we cease to exist as individuals. Hence I am not preaching the end of subjectivity; rather I proclaim that true humanity can only exist within a communal identity, namely the body of Christ. When we speak about the Church we should therefore avoid such understandings that describes it as individuals coming together, rather our individuality is a result of being reborn within the Church. Our primary identity is thus a communal identity within the Body of Christ in which God is known as our true origin.
Hence, when Christ proclaimed ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near’, this is the life he invited us to become part of. To be sure, all this must be interpreted eschatologically. Christ made the future present and his life, death and resurrection is therefore a testimony that we will all one day be reconciled with God, each other and the whole of creation. The eschatological vision of a universal reconciliation made known through God’s raising of Christ is therefore a moment in time where the distinctions between past, present and future are dissolved and where the worldly division between individual and communal existence is deconstructed.
Consequently, when Christ preached that we are to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us, he was not imposing an impossible ethical demand on our lives, rather he was asking us to let the same mind be in us that was in him. He was asking us to perceive God in everyone and everyone in God. His eschatological vision was a fully reconciled world and his claim was that this future is available now. Hence, ‘the kingdom of heaven has come near’. What arises from such an understanding is a prophetic Christianity that unveils the sins of the world. Our love is thus judgmental, but it does not condemn for eternity, rather it points to the universal reconciliation of everything in heaven and on earth. Our love is therefore patient and kind, it does not envy or boast, it is neither proud nor rude, it is not easily angered and it keeps no record of wrongs. This is all possible because of the radical embrace of Christ Jesus who loved us first so that God can live in us and we in God. We therefore love because he first loved us and embrace the other because he first embraced us.
If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother. [1 John 4.15-21]
We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us—and we ought to lay down our lives for one another. [1 John 3.16]