In my last post, I asked whether the ministry of reconciliation, to which the church has been elected for, still matters to Christians in America. Tribalism distracts the church from from this ministry more and more as Christians become preoccupied with tribal matters. On the other hand, after encountering the risen Christ on the road to Damascus, the apostle Paul became the Jewish missionary of Jesus to the Gentiles, defining this ministry of reconciliation. Paul’s story led me to end the post with this question: when tribalism is placed above participation in the ministry of reconciliation, have we lost sight of the risen Jesus Christ?
That as good question for starters but the real question that must be asked is whether or not we are remaining in Jesus or not. Jesus says in John 15:4-5:
Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.
The key word in this text is the verb menō which means to “remain,” “abide” (NRSV, ESV) or “dwell,” and is modified by the phrase “in me.” The point is that apart from Jesus we can do nothing but in Jesus, we can we can see clearly, discern wisely, live fearlessly, and love courageously, bearing fruit that bears the name of Jesus. If we read through the trajectory of the New Testament, the fruit that Jesus has in mind has to do with the ministry of reconciliation. So in order to faithfully participate in this ministry of reconciliation, we must remain in Christ.
I want to focus in on the “in me” of Jesus’s words because while those words presume a certain belief about Jesus, to remain in Christ is so much more than merely believing in Jesus. Remaining in Christ is a way of life in which we dwell in his words, his teaching, his promises, etc… as we surrender our entire being, our entire life, to him. We learn from him from being immersed daily in him through prayer, meditation, scripture, community, and so forth.
Over the weekend it was reported that a man survived being mauled after jumping into the pen of a tiger at the Bronx Zoo in New York City. The man’s reasoning for doing this was that he wanted to be one with the tiger. Now as crazy and stupid as that sounds, he was right about one thing. If we want to be one with something, we must become a part of it with our entire being. And that is what remaining in Jesus is about. It is about being one with the Incarnate God so that we become like him in every way of our life. Only then can we, as a branch of the vine, bear fruit that comes from the vine which is Jesus. This is where the ministry of reconciliation begins.
The reality is that what goes in is what comes out. Whether we are remaining in Christ or not will be revealed by what comes out of us. So we should close with the prayer of Saint Patrick:
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me,
Christ in the eye that sees me,
Christ in the ear that hears me.