Thursday, June 23, 2005

War of the world(s)

Watching the Pistons' playoff games, there have been several commercials for a new television series called Invasion. I think it's about aliens, or at least some girl whose mother smells strange, from what I can gather. But in his introduction to his translation of the NT epistles, J. B. Phillips writes of a different invasion:

The great difference between present-day Christianity and that of which we read in these letters is that to us it is primarily a performance, to them it was a real experience. We are apt to reduce the Christian religion to a code, or at best a rule of heart and life. To these men it is quite plainly the invasion of their lives by a new quality of life altogether. They do not hesitate to describe this as Christ "living in" them. (Letters to Young Churches).

Whole people, true people, live with consistency. We can recognize our friends, coworkers, and family by how they act. We recognize people by how they walk or their handwriting or how they respond in certain situations. This is possible because it is the same person each time: you know what person X is like because he is one person.

The problem comes when it's the Dr. Jekyll-and-Mr. Hyde situation, when it's suddenly two people living in one body. I once dated a girl who suffered somewhat from bipolar disorder, and this wreaked havoc on our relationship. The thing I find scariest is that so often I am Mr. Hyde living in Dr. Jekyll's body (all the more made true by my new job working in a genetic research laboratory!). The point is, I find myself torn between listening to my old self and to Jesus. Most of the time I speak louder. It wrecks my life, even if only by causing strange tensions in me because I don't (want to) believe the fullness of my forgiveness by God.

The early Christians, according to Phillips, knew Christ was living in them--or, as poet Gerard Manley Hopkins once penned, Christ was "playing" in men. When we learn to live this out, the ascended Son's Spirit living within us, we can live whole again. When it's not Drew-over-Christ or Drew-and-Christ, but only Christ himself, then I can begin to live true shalom: wholeness with God, with community, with myself, and with creation. Only his voice, his actions, his choices will come through. People will recognize me. And maybe then I'll be able to recognize myself in the mirror once again, but this time I'll see someone else's face.

The way I see it, he said, you can do one of two things. One of them, not both. Nobody can do both of two things without straining themselves. You can do one or you can do the opposite.

Jesus or the devil, the boy said.

No no no, the stranger said, there ain't no such thing as a devil. I can tell you that from my own self-experience. I know that for a fact. It ain't Jesus or the devil. It's Jesus or you. (Flannery O'Connor, The Violent Bear it Away)

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