Our Inheritance in Christ
I worry these days about the erosion of Christian witness. People line up on different sides of issues, always claiming that Scripture and tradition support their view. They prize certitude over faith.
Sometimes it is difficult to discern who is a Christian. There are folk who throw around Bible verses for political gain, which prompt policies and actions that seem to conflict with the holistic redemption offered in Christ Jesus. There are folk who proclaim justice yet do nothing to support efforts to care for the suffering.
The Epistle reading for next Sunday describes the inheritance in Christ God has set forth. Paul employs many words to describe this bequest: adoption; redemption; forgiveness; insight into God’s own mysterious purposes; the seal of the Holy Spirit; and, an enduring destiny of hope that is bound up with the life of Christ (Ephesians 1:3-14).
Saint Paul by Bartolomeo Montagna
So, what does this inheritance look like in a mature Christian? I bring my own theological framework to this delineation, of course. Thus, this brief exposition gathers up some of my own thinking as I pursue what it means to be a Christian.
- A mature Christian is outwardly oriented, not curved in upon oneself. Rather than being only concerned about what affects their personal interests, they are receptive to the lives of others, creating space for them. I once road about 30 miles with a well-known lecturer after we had concluded a joint event; I asked several questions of her. Amazingly, she did not ask one question. My life was of no interest to her.
- A mature Christian understands personal limitations.It is a seductive thought to believe we are essential at every turn or that we have unlimited energies for our work. A refusal to live within limits is an expression of our sin, according to Bonhoeffer.
- A mature Christian is resilient after failure.This requires a sober self-assessment of our human frailty and need for forgiveness and a fresh beginning. Our nagging perfectionism displaces the role of Christ in our lives; we actually do need a savior! Thomas Merton once described life in the monastery as falling down and getting back up—repeatedly.
- A mature Christian looks after the interests of those less mature. It really is all about the next generation if we have attained a measure of stature in Christ. Our best wisdom does not belong to us; it is a trust for those who come after us, and we offer it gently in word and deed.
- A mature Christian crafts a hopeful future story.Hope is intrinsic to Christian faith because the Spirit has been poured into our hearts, and we believe we will participate in Christ’s resurrection Although we walk through hard places that are endemic to being a human, we can trust that God accompanies us and brings us to life everlasting. Kathleen Norris tells of visiting an old monk at the monastic infirmary. His delight at simply receiving a guest spoke of his trust in God’s faithfulness as he neared the end.
There are surely other marks of authentic Christian faith, but these offer a perspective on the life God beckons.
Molly T. Marshall
Central prepares women and men for seeking God, shaping church, and serving humanity.