Who will we see at church? Any celebrities? Any movers and shakers—or just the moved and shaken? How many are a little too old for your comfort? Too young? Too rich? Too poor? Too dark-skinned? Too light-skinned? Too traditional? Too progressive? Good grief, who are these people?
But wait—we need to put on these special glasses, the bifocals of self-denial and Christ-realization. Their first field of vision sees “no longer I but Christ.” The second field sees “no longer you but Christ.” Both foci are critically necessary for you and me to see really where we are and whom we are with.
Look now! Is that a holy woman I see? And isn't that man a priest? Look, we're surrounded by royalty! We're in the company of saints, not marble myths but flesh and blood saints. These citizens of God's Kingdom are, in fact, ambassadors of the King. These princes and princesses are heirs of the Kingdom, co-heirs with Christ, timeless, eternal. For these are the very children of God, your sisters, my brothers.
We've gone to Church, you see—not a building of wood or stone, not a program that takes up one hour a week—but to Church, to Zion, to the Temple of God! These are the Chosen People, and every one of them has received adoption into the Family, ordination into the Priesthood, election into the Kingdom, incorporation into the Body, and an invitation, blood engraved, into the Royal Banquet!
What if for some reason you decide that you don't like me at all, that I am generally wrong-headed and offensive? Could your view of me become so severe that even my virtues look to you like vices? Could I, in your eyes, do nothing right even when I am, in fact, doing right? What would you do with me? What if you had to work or worship with me?
But then, what if you could see past all that alienates us? What if God gave you the grace to deny not only your self but my old self as well, to recognize only the Christ within us both? What if—just imagine—you actually could see in me the being that God is re-forming from one degree of glory to the next? What if you could actually see the finished product? Suddenly it's no longer a matter of mere tolerance. Suddenly it is all you can do to resist falling down and worshipping this glorious being! Paul put it this way:
So from now on we view no one from a merely human perspective; In fact, we once looked at Christ in the merely human way, but no longer is that the way we know him. So then, with anyone in Christ, you have a new creature. The old things have passed on by. Now look: they’ve become new!
2 Corinthians 5:16-17
Jesus himself said it with the most dramatic simplicity: “I tell you that just as surely as you did to any member of my family, even the least, you did to me” (Matthew 25:40).
Now we understand why the New Testament places so much emphasis on koinonia, the fellowship of the saints. This sharing, this participation, this partnership, this getting together (in the deepest sense) is far more than the optional icing on the cake of discipleship. Fellowship is essential, because in each brother and sister Christ takes on concrete reality.
You and I are family. We are the church. Whenever we come together, we come, not as two selves but as members, organs of the one body of Christ. If that is true, then I will approach you, then in a state of self-denial and Christ-realization. I am not here to protect my status or promote my agenda. I am here simply to be Jesus to you. I am the vessel, the clay jar; Christ is the content.
I embrace you, then, to honor the Christ in you, the one reality that, for me, eclipses every detail of your mortality. I see your immortality.
Because we both are being transformed into the image of Christ, we don't have to remake each in our own images. We needn’t fear differences of taste, perspective or disposition that might otherwise become barriers between us. Indeed, we celebrate our distinct gifts, talents and personalities, all subject to our sovereign Lord. We show, not passive or indifferent tolerance, but active and invested love.
- Larry Hall, from his book No Longer I
Take a few minutes—without distractions—to reflect on this story. Finish your reflection time in prayer. Pray especially for our church as we see Christ in each other.