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A Christian Identity Built on Grace-filled Faithfulness ©

A Christian Identity Built on Grace-filled Faithfulness © As I conclude a five-part blog series built around the issue of Christian Identity as something that transcends political persuasions, identity politics, nationality, gender, ethnicity, etc. I come back again to standing both with and in Christ. Dietrich Bonhoeffers series of lectures published posthumously ender the title of Christ the Center once again beckons for my attention. In his lecture “The Present Christ” Bonhoeffer comments, “Christ is Christ not as Christ himself, but in his relation to me. His being Christ is pro me.”  (emphasis in the original) Bonhoeffer adds, “Christ is present as the Risen and Exalted One [Capitalization in the original] only in the proclamation, and that means ty the same time: only by way of a new humiliation. . .. [Christ] is thus present in his humiliation.” (Christ the Center by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, p. 47) Our identity is, at its best, in Christ. We could even safely add “in Christ alone!”  Martin Luther famously commented that Christians are to be “little Christs.”  I must confess I find this to be hard. In fact, given my own disputatious nature, I cannot accomplish it on my own. The Apostle Paul speaks for me when he writes, “All have sinned and fall short of God’s glory.” (Romans 3:23) Only when my identity is anchored in Christ can I rise through the Spirits help to my best self. Living in grace-filled faithfulness. This means I must sit lightly on any earthly political, tribal or cultural attachments. Sin-filled nature needs, like a person dying of thirst craving cool water, the grace-filled faithfulness God offers in Christ through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. Martin Luther once remarked, “Faith is a living, daring confidence in God's grace, so sure and certain that a man would stake his life on it one thousand times. This confidence in God's grace and knowledge of it makes men glad and bold and happy in dealing with God and with all creatures; and this is the work of the Holy Ghost in faith.” The earliest Christians use to say that they were “in the world but not of it.”   They spoke of being “citizens of heaven.” (Philippians 3:20 – “Our citizenship is in heaven.”) Paul’s admonition ought to settle uncomfortably upon us in modern political debates. “Don’t be conformed to the patterns of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your minds so that you can figure out what God’s will is—what is good and pleasing and mature.” (Romans 12:2) A couple of years ago, quite by accident (or was it the prompting of the Holy Spirit) I read an article given to me on “Lessons in Love from the Persecuted Church.”  The article shared reflections from Dr. Maggie Bailey, Vice Provost for Point Loma Nazarene University, who served for more than a decade on the board of directors of Open Doors USA, which is part of an outreach effort to persecuted Christians in the world. She has traveled widely “within the underground church in many closed nations.”  (“Lessons in Love from the Persecuted Church” by Anna Stepanek; Viewpoint: Point Loma Nazarene University, Spring 2015, p. 20) In the article written by Anna Stepanek, Dr. Bailey reports, “The persecuted church has taught me that they don’t want us to pray for the elimination of persecution, but to pray for their strength in persecution. As an American, though, I think, ‘Just eradicate persecution! Talk to global leaders! Go to the United Nations!’  But that’s not what builds the church. What builds the church is God’s love, not politics. Over and over and over again, we have watched Christians come out of these very dark parts of the world for a short period of time, only to return to their country – and certain persecution. They return because they ask, ‘Who will be the loving presence of Jesus Christ if I leave?’”  (“Lessons in Love from the Persecuted Church” by Anna Stepanek; Viewpoint: Point Loma Nazarene University, Spring 2015, p. 21) What does a Christian identity, anchored in Christ, built on a grace-filled faithfulness look like? Allow me to offer some profoundly simple examples even while I struggle to live up to the high standards of a grace-filled faithfulness as my primary point of identity – in Christ. Ø  It looks like Jesus dialoging with a rich man who disagrees with him and with disciples who don’t understand him in Luke 18.
  • Ø It looks like Dionysus writing in the second century. “Unlike some other people, they [Christians] champion no purely human doctrine. . .. there is something extraordinary about their lives. They live in their own countries as though they were only passing through. They play their full role as citizens, but labor under all the disabilities of aliens. Any country can be their homeland, but for them their homeland, wherever it may be, is a foreign country. . .. They live in the flesh, but they are not governed by the desires of the flesh. They pass their days upon earth, but they are citizens of heaven. . .. Christians love all men, but all men persecute them. . .. They suffer dishonor, but that is their glory. They are defamed, but vindicated. A blessing is their answer to abuse, deference their response to insult. …
Ø  It looks like Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovié, President of Crotia, greeting both her own Crotia soccer team when they lost in the finals of the world cup and the victorious French team that defeated them with grace, dignity, and respectful compassion. was a literal bright spot in the crowd. (see “Croatia's President Taught a Lesson In Leadership At The World Cup” By Corinne Purtill  https://www.govexec.com/excellence/promising-practices/2018/07/croatias-president-taught-lesson-leadership-world-cup/149769/) Ø  It looks like the late President of South Africa Nelson Mandela leading a way through hatred and turmoil to build a new nation using the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Ø  It looks like John McCain famously answering a woman who accused opponent in the Presidential race, then candidate Barack Obama, of being a Muslim and someone who supported terrorism with the truth. “No, ma’am,” he said. “He’s a decent family man [and] citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues, and that’s what the campaign’s all about.” (thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/403634-clip-of-mccain-defending-obama-after-supporter-called-him-arab) It’s life in Christ; Christian identity where our primary orientation is to Christ as Lord and Master through grace-filled faithfulness.