Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church - Outreach - Blogs - TEEZing Out The Roots
“What does it matter? Just this, that Christ is proclaimed in every way, whether out of false motives or true; and in that I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance. It is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be put to shame in any way, but that by my speaking with all boldness, Christ will be exalted now as always in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which I prefer. I am hard pressed between the two: my desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better; but to remain in the flesh is more necessary for you. Since I am convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with all of you for your progress and joy in faith, so that I may share abundantly in your boasting in Christ Jesus when I come to you again.”—Philippians 1:18-26
For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain.
Living is Christ and dying is gain.
Living is Christ.
This is one of Paul’s greatest lines, for me only second to, “Anyone who is in Christ…new creation.” On the surface it seems quite simple. Paul has reached a point in his life at which he is welcoming death, for he has the assurance that death would lead him to eternal joy. Yet, he knows that life is the better option. For, living is Christ.
And there is where the complexity hits. Living is Christ. What in the world does that mean? Paul later says that he desires to depart because then he will be with Christ. But why desire that if living is itself Christ?
It is clear in the latter case that Paul has a deep desire to be in the physical presence of Jesus Christ, who is seated at the right hand of YHWH. He was probably one of only a few people living at the time of his writing who had actually seen Jesus, when the scales fell from his eyes. He thus knew his face, his expression, his emanating peace.
For so many others at the time, though, and for so many of us who have not had mystical experiences, the true image of Jesus is unknown. I think what Paul was getting at, then, was sharing the profound truth that life itself is Christ. Again, what in the world does that mean?
The Greek from which “Christ” comes means “anointed.” Jesus received this name because he was the anointed of God—anointed a king as in the days of old with King Saul and following. The actual act of anointing involved pouring oil over the person’s head. For Jesus this physical act occurred when the woman whom the disciples rebuked poured expensive oil on his head. She knew the truth of who he was and what his existence meant to the world.
So, if life itself is Christ, then we must think of our lives as carrying that same anointment. We should not equate ourselves with Jesus in the sense of being an entity of the Triune God. We should, however, think of ourselves as having the same mission as Jesus. Jesus’s kingship entailed leading a revolution, starting communities of radical equality and interdependence, prioritizing the poor in work and leisure, reorienting the relationship of the people to God, saving life, sharing meals, telling stories, making people realize that they indeed are loved and that they indeed deserve life. At various points in our lives we all come to understand the following.
Living is beautiful.
Living is hard.
Living is precarious.
Living is dependent.
Living is joyful.
Living is sorrowful.
Living is sacrifice.
Living is not guaranteed.
Living is precious.
Living is a gift.
Living is anointed.
Living is Christ.
We do not have the physical image of Jesus, no matter how many pictures we have seen of a white man with long hair and piercing eyes. What we do have is the image of Christ in each other. We have the image of the profundity of life, the very essence of God. Let us look for that image in each other and live into that image ourselves this season.