The Eclipsing of Christ!

Every year seems the same. Come Christmas and Christians are all giddy about the birth of Jesus Christ and remembering “the reason for the season.” Then as Easter approaches, we observe lent and focus our attention on the death and resurrection of our Lord. But then… The weather warms up as spring gives way to summer and Jesus is left on the back-burner as Christians turn there attention to national holidays. Patriotism eclipses the gospel. And maybe it’s just me but in recent years it seems that this patriotism has become more nationalistic, glorifying America as though it is the source and sustenance of life (idolatry is what that is). Honestly, I sometimes wonder if some Christians even understand the gospel. Allow me to explain…

In Ephesians 2:11-22, Paul describes Jesus as the peace that has mended the division between the Jews and Gentiles, a division that involves both ethnic and nationalistic pride. This is a very important aspect of the gospel but it’s something too many Christians are missing. The purpose of the gospel is the creation of one new humanity who are reconciled to one another and God. These reconciled people have a new identity that is found in Christ: they are  members of God’s household! What matters now is neither ethnic nor nationalistic identity because they belong to God. This is what it means to be the church of Jesus Christ, as the identity of every believer is now understood from their inclusion in Christ.

What was true for the Ephesians should be true for us who confess the name of Christ. But it’s not. Instead we claim our Christian identity while simultaneously carrying on our nationalistic identity, as though we can live for both nation and God. As I already alluded to, it is ironic that we are so worried about the removal of Christ from the holiday season but seem more than willing to allow the name of Christ to be eclipsed by patriotic fever.

Part of the problem is that to a large degree we have separated ourselves from the church (and notice how I just used “church” in the 3rd-person voice). Church is somewhere we go rather than who we are. So we see ourselves as Americans who also happen to be Christians that go to church rather than people who belong to God and just happen to live in America. Simply put, we tend to view ourselves as American Christians rather than Christians living in America. This is why, for example, during the American Civil War Christians were able to kill other Christians because those they identified more with the state than the church. That is, they saw themselves belonging to either the Union or Confederate State rather than to the household of God.

Today when we gather as the church on Sunday’s, we partake in the bread and wine as the family of God… proclaiming the Lord’s death until he comes again. We also dream of heaven where the life we know by faith will be known by sight. Yet we miss the fact that as the church we’re meant to be a portrait of the heavenly life to come so that the world can see what the purpose of the gospel is. But we can’t be that so long as our purpose is oriented towards nationalism, as we can’t act out two different stories simultaneously. So it would seem that if we are so interested in the heavenly life that we would have more interested in that life now and expressing that life now.

4 responses to “The Eclipsing of Christ!

  1. In your wondering if some Christians understand the gospel, I can tell you that only a lucky few in certain other denominations got to hear the gospel. Sadly, many Christians don’t understand the gospel. Too often, the sermon, at least in the cofC, focused on verses from the letters of Paul taken out of context. The gospel was only used when trying to get someone to obey it by being baptized and only was mentioned toward the end of the sermon and it was phrased, “if you need to obey the gospel, come now as we stand and sing.”
    That was followed by proclaiming the Lord’s death by receiving the elements while seated in silence and never hearing “the body of Christ given for you” and “the blood of Christ shed for you”.

    There is so much of the prophets that points to Jesus as Messiah that was overlooked, as were most of the gospels. I learned far more of the tenets of Christianity from Jews than from Christians.

    • And it is such proof-texting of certain verses that separated those passages from the larger story of scripture as a whole which in turn has allowed the Bible to be absorbed into our American worldview rather than allowing the narrative of scripture to produce its own worldview that we become a part of.

  2. Sadly, today when someone says “God bless America”, more than likely they are actually saying, “God blesses ONLY America”.

    My memories of growing up in rural and small town America, enjoying the culture of meetings and dinners on the ground, are priceless and I would not trade them for anything. However, they do not make up the total picture of the kingdom. And unless I can see in my mind’s eye a poor, teenage mother with a child at her breast sitting in the smallest hut in the smallest out of the way village in the smallest nation as one actually sitting in the hand of God, then my memories of “old time religion” is just me missing a friendly idol.

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