“… Christ in you, the hope of glory”– Colossians 1:27
The thatched roof crackled under the weight of the men who clawed about furiously to create an opening. Inside, Jesus stood surrounded with barely any space to move. The crowds encompassed the house, peering through windows, listening from nearby walls. The men were determined, they needed their paralyzed friend to get to Jesus, and they stopped at nothing. Soon, a portion of the roof collapsed in a heap of dust, and the men lowered their friend on a stretcher directly in front of Jesus. What they knew in their mind about Jesus had gone to their heart.
When faith is tested, a gap is bridged between the head and the heart. Jesus shows us that true love empties itself, waives its rights, and comes to serve, not to be served, and gives its very life. He, who was humiliated for the selfish, says that the greatest in God’s Kingdom are the least. On our own we are filled with self-interest and have no capacity to love or look upon the needs of others, but He in us is not only well able, but more than able, and actually yearns to do so. His nature in us longs to satisfy itself. If Jesus could serve us while we were still helpless and knew Him not, surely He in us can do the same for those who do not reciprocate.
Rather than making things about us and our needs, true freedom, privilege, and honor comes from laying down one’s rights and needs in love. In a strange, paradoxical, and ironic sense, our deepest need is actually met in doing so. Needs deeper than the needs we think we have. That need is the very life and nature of Christ in us.
Slowly we learn we actually possesses faith that’s very much alive, because He is, having conquered death, and it’s His faith in us that is held and kept. As we go through the journey and trials of life we see that even though we can at times feel slain, defeated, destroyed, and in agony, we’re still praising God, seeking Him, looking to Him, choosing Him, running to Him for shelter and help even when we don’t feel like it, or feel like He’s not there or not listening or providing what we need or want, because we know there’s nowhere else to go. We keep putting our hope in Him and choosing Him regardless of our intellectualizing, overthinking, and tumultuous emotions. But do we, or does His Spirit in us keep choosing Him in and through us? If what He says about us is true, we are dead and no longer live if we are in Him, and it’s He who lives in us. Is this not the evidence that it’s all Him and not us? This faith, this kind of love, this capacity has nothing to do with us and everything to do with Him. It defies our logic and reason and leaves us in no other position to think and be, except that of a child.
It’s not even that we’ve got Him, but He’s got us! Christ in us is well able to take all the hits, to love onward, to forgive and serve without reciprocity because it’s all done as unto Him. His nature in us has the divine ability to look past a person and their offenses to Christ in them.
What a relief. He in me can choose compassion instead of reacting. If I do react, I am living out of something dead, not alive, and it’s my choice to live out of His abundant life. We can look past offenses to the desperate unmet need in others, and He in us can offer the grace to meet it. Then we are astounded by His power, His capacity to love over and past our own hurts, to know there’s a deeper wound in the one who hurt us, and we don’t have to take things so personally. He in us is well able to absorb the hurt, and we can then rest securely in Him and address with love the one who is hurting. This is profound, maybe the most profound element of being ‘free’ in Christ, without rights, crucified, knowing we don’t live anymore but ‘He in us’ is a thing of beauty of liberation.
When we let go of our lives and our rights and let God’s nature exhibit itself in and through us, it can voluntarily die and suffer for the unlovely, the selfish, the arrogant, the proud, because we are all those things and exhibit all those characteristics apart from Him. When those characteristics are exhibited in ourselves or in others, what we / they need is Christ. Whoever is first to recognize this has the advantage of turning to face Him.
Sometimes we sympathize with ourselves out of self-pity; a wretched form of our own pride, and we tell ourselves we don’t deserve something. The hard truth is that implies entitlement. A person’s behavior may very well be inappropriate, unkind, unjust, unloving, disrespectful, but who are we to think we don’t deserve? Christ in us can take it in stride and has already taken it. He is not moved. A weakness of mine was allowing my flesh to be constantly hurt and moved, but when I finally realized He in me can take anything, I saw clearer and regretted being so offended and hurt. This is why Paul must have said that he could do all things through Christ who strengthened him because he was tapping into and living out of the very real and living person of Christ who is not dead. Paul was expressing freedom from the bondage of self by a ‘new and living way.’
What if the next time we are hurt we allow ourselves to let Christ take the hit on our behalf and instead of reacting, be like Jesus and meet the person where they’re at, showing them love without conditions, meeting them with grace instead of defense or sadness? This is what Jesus is teaching me, drilling into me, forging through a bridge between the head and the heart. Christ in us is more than able if we will let Him. A punch can be met with an embrace, a harsh word with a gentle word instead of allowing our flesh to screech in pain and pity. It takes time, we all must learn love from The One who is love Himself, and allow Him to be our teacher.
When we do, our bad memories get hid by His Gospel and turned to gold. Past hurts, failures, and troubles are bathed in agape, forgiveness, covered over, redeemed – transformed into compassion, empathy, love, care, healing, humility, grace, wisdom, and skill in us. Because of Jesus, that is how we can look past our problems and our hurts, and even each other – with the laughter of grace.
Hardships can provide opportunities for God to peel back His glory in ways never before seen or experienced, exposing just how powerful He really is in us. When God brings us to a place where, by His Spirit and nature being forged in us, we become committed to another person’s new creation, to desiring and learning how to become a caregiver, healer, someone safe, to love like Jesus, we have already received our reward, the greatest gift, Christ in us, the hope of glory.
Yes, He can love us that much to purposely bring us into these spheres where we must learn to lay down our rights to ourselves for love’s sake. This is the cross life, but what an honor and joy it is when God brings us there and births in us that aspiration for Him in another person. If the ultimate lesson — learning to love like Him — is being learned, then is it not well worth it? What a profound opportunity when God puts you in a situation, friendship, relationship, or marriage, where He serves up sanctification on a silver platter. It may take awhile to see from His perspective, but once we do, we can’t help but be awestruck. All those things we thought were problems, obstacles, challenges, difficulties too hard to overcome, get transformed into the very opposite. While others experience trials, joys, sufferings, and life events to grow and become more like Him, He sets aside certain people for the benefit of loving and caring for one another who may hurt, trigger, expose, and not meet all earthly needs, so they actually get to learn to love and care like Christ through and with each other, every day, all the time, with no breaks or distractions or room for apathy. The world would say that is foolishness, to try to find the most compatible person, which is to say someone you need to change the very least for and in whom needs little changing, for a more safe, shallow, and apathetic life. But Christ says otherwise. Who pushes you closer to Him, through good and bad? Who will provide for you a lifetime of needing to draw on His strength, wisdom, love, ways, behaviors, reactions, compassion, gentleness, selflessness? He gives us new eyes to see the beauty in any and every challenge. He gives us the favored opportunity to turn off our flesh, choose Him, realize it’s not about us, and we can freely love like Him into oblivion with an endless supply of His grace, over and over and over again. We’ll fail, of course. It’ll never be perfect, but when the motivation and intent is there, He is faithful to see it through and finish what He starts if after every shortcoming we take it as an opportunity to keep turning to Him to do so. Is there a greater gift, a greater liberty, a more profound opportunity?
Often, we see debilitations as bad things, but it doesn’t have to be that way. They can be the very opportunities we need to show and be agape love. It was the faith of the friends of the paralyzed man that stopped at nothing to get their friend in front of Jesus by lowering him through the roof that most impressed Jesus. God was honored by their faithfulness. May we be like them for each other, since we are all debilitated in one way or another. Christ is the healing answer, His love is the cure. When love passes from a feeling to a conscious choice, there is so much freedom: the supreme liberation – self-giving love that becomes more like Him in His death and exhibits the abundance of His resurrection life. We lose ourselves to gain Him, and in so doing He is revealed in us: the brightest beauty in the ashes of pain – Christ in me the hope of glory.