Some of us have had our working lives significantly impacted in the present crisis. I regularly teach and speak and mentor; and all those activities have been drastically curtailed lately. At events where I present, I promote and sell my books, another source of income that has dried up.
I’ve been pondering whether coronavirus is a time to encounter God in renewed ways: to stop and breathe and listen (which will not be possible for those on the frontline of this crisis, I acknowledge, but perhaps we can uphold them in prayer in the midst of the chaos). The starting point is to understand what is the source of our true identity. As many of the things that we used to identify with are stripped away: work, recognition, influence, social gatherings, sporting achievements, invitations, sales… we can begin to get to the core of who we are.
I am struck with how often the Apostle Paul refers to us being “in Christ”, with the emphasis that being “in Christ” is our new identity. So, for example, in 2 Corinthians 5:17 he says: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” Paul refers to what it means to be “in Christ” over 80 times in his letters.
He uses that term most in Ephesians:
- Opening the letter by addressing it to the “faithful in Christ Jesus” (1:1)
- Telling us we have received “every spiritual blessing in Christ” (1:3)
- That “he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ” (1:9)
- Telling us that we are first to put “our hope in Christ” (1:12)
- Pointing out that we were “included in Christ” when we heard the gospel of our salvation (1:13)
- That we are raised in “the heavenly realms in Christ” (2:6)
- And will in the future access “the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus” (2:7)
- “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works” (2:10)
- And “in Christ Jesus”, those who were far away have been brought close (2:13)
- That Gentiles, have joined the Jews in being “sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus” (3:6)
- That all this is “according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord” (3:11)
- And that our behaviour should resemble Christ whose identity we now take on: “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (4:32)
These are beautiful promises that remind us what a privilege and joy it is to be in Christ.
So how should we respond?
Probably Paul’s most famous expression of an appropriate response is Romans 12:1–2:
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
We are to respond by offering our whole selves to God as a living sacrifice: our bodies, and everything we do with them. Eugene Peterson captures the flavour well in The Message paraphrase of these verses:
So, here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognise what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.
This is a great time to ponder how much of our “sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life” we actually place before God as an offering. It is an opportunity to recalibrate our lives around being in Christ.
Author: Kara Martin