2 Corinthians 5:17 So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!
I like to think of myself as a proponent of inclusivity. This includes language, which was the huge deal back in the early ‘80’s when I was in seminary. We were taught not even to say, “God….He,” but instead to use the proper name for God so as to avoid gender-specific pronouns. Admirable, but admittedly also a bit cumbersome to say, “God so loved the world that God gave God’s only son…” You get the picture. But sometimes even the flow of language must be sacrificed, as many things must be, for the sake of inclusivity.
Easy enough when it comes to God language, but what about us? The closing passage of this week’s assigned second lesson in our lectionary is, in my opinion, very unfortunately translated. It’s one of the most important affirmations in all of scripture, yet the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible from which we and most mainline Christians now read in public worship sacrifices the meaning of the passage for the god of inclusivity. It’s printed above. “If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation.”
That’s not what the Greek says or means, as if to say that when we’re in Christ, somewhere alongside that or accompanying that there is also new creation. Nope! The Greek says “If anyone is in Christ, HE is a new creation!” The person himself or herself is entirely new. The old has passed away. It is even more profound than the classic “do-over” of our childhood games. In Christ, it’s a “be-over.” New creation altogether. In Christ we, he, she (not “there”) are a whole new creation!
For us, to be in Christ is to remember our baptism daily, to realize that even as sin holds immense power so long as we are in these bodies, we are forgiven and God remembers our sin no more and comes to us not on the basis of our unworthiness and deserved punishment but on the basis of Christ’s worthiness and sacrifice. We all have “baggage” that holds us down and would rob us of joy and abundant life that God intends for us. Paul says to the Corinthians and us, “Let it go. In Christ, you are a new creation.”
Being “in Christ” also has to do very practically with our own deciding regularly rather than sporadically to be where Christ promises to meet us: in God’s Word, in the sacrament of communion, in the least of these whom we meet in loving service, and in the Christian community where two or three are gathered in his name. Not a threatening condition, but a gracious invitation! Be who God in Christ has made you to be!
There is indeed a new creation in Christ, but much more than “there.” You, she, he, we. Today. And should we blow it today (as we surely will), again tomorrow and always and forever.
PRAYER: Help me, gracious God, to nurture your deep truth about me in Christ. Help me to treat others as your new creation, too. Help me to seek and to find and to believe those places where your claim on me and my identity in you becomes my center. I know you love the old creation me, but I’m tired of the old, Lord. Make me new in you. Amen.
Pastor Tim Smith