Thursday’s Column: Carlnormous Comments
Some phrases in the Bible are simple to read, but very difficult to comprehend. In this article, I’d like to walk through a process together in an attempt to make sense of a difficult phrase (thanks, Paul). One of those is in Ephesians 1.23: “…the fullness of him who fills all in all.” This is a description of Jesus, specifically as it relates to His being the head of the church. But what does that phrase mean?
I will not pretend to have the answer, but I would like to make a couple of suggestions. Firstly, “fullness” appears to describe the church. In my limited knowledge of Greek, it seems to be grammatically tied to “body.” The church – His body – is His fullness. Both are nominative, both are the subject of the sentence.
Secondly, Jesus fills all in all. It’s that last phrase that’s so hard for me to comprehend. What does it mean, that “He fills all in all?” Based on the fact that some form of “fullness” is used three times in a single phrase, it appears to have reference to his nature. He is not confined by time or space and is present everywhere.
If the church is His fullness (the word is possessive in Greek), and He is omnipresent (or, creation is full of Him), then the church must be extremely important. Again, I am not a scholar, I may be mistaken.
I would, though, like to attempt to make application from this difficult phrase. If the church is, ideally, representative of the very nature of Christ, are we living up to it? Is our passion for the lost like His was/is? Is our love for each other as strong as His is for the church? Do we treat the church as if it were the body of Christ (because it is)? Do we keep in mind, as we interact with each other, that we all answer to Him? Are we trying to mold culture to His image, or are we being molded to culture?
We really have to think about this one to try to make sense of it. Comprehending this phrase is anything but easy (at least for me!). But the church – which is one distinct unit, not a series of denominations – is supposed to represent Jesus. Our values, our demeanor, our goals, our mission, our attitudes, our behavior, and our purpose should scream to others, “We are not of this world.” If these do not, we are not representing Jesus. No one will do this perfectly, but the standard is high.
When we begin to understand this phrase a little more, it shifts from being hard to understand to being hard to hear. We have a huge responsibility, but we also have a global family to support us. The standard is high, but our Head is also our Savior. As things slowly go back to normal, let’s keep this in mind! We’re not just Christians to be good people, we’re Christians to show the world who Jesus is.
Chameleons are truly one of God’s most fascinating creations. Their tongue can be twice the length of their body! Their feet are climbing marvels. Their eyes can focus on two objects at once, and they have a 360-degree arc of vision. They can see both visible and ultraviolet light (information via Journal of Comparative Physiology, 2/98, PNAS, Vol. 107, No. 12, A Field Guide to Amphibians and Reptiles, et al). Despite all of this, what do we associate the chameleon with? It changes colors to blend in with its environment. From this alteration of appearance, we have come to use the word in a figurative sense. To be a chameleon has come to mean one who becomes like those around them in order to blend in with them. Often, the term is not used in a complimentary way.
Paul tells us that he was able to relate to people of different circumstances, adapting himself to peoples of different backgrounds in 1 Corinthians 9:19-22. Context and other passages would not lend support to the idea of compromising biblical truth in order to fit in with anyone. He would not sacrifice doctrine for fellowship with those in error nor would he sacrifice moral truth to accommodate those of a worldly mindset. Motivated by a burning desire to convert the lost to Christ, Paul went among the Jews, those under the Law, those without the law, and the weak and used his knowledge, experience, and familiarity with people in those circumstances “for the sake of the gospel” (23). But he did all of that, being under the law of Christ, in a disciplined way (27).
We are tempted to alter our speech, compromise our convictions, hedge our beliefs, and place ourselves in ungodly situations in order to fit in with people whose acceptance we seek. We may feel we have to put our lights under a basket (cf. Mat. 5:15) to appease a client, coworkers, non-Christian family, or others whose association or friendship we’ve made. It can feel more comfortable to blend in, to conform to them (cf. Rom. 12:1).
Peter writes to Christians faced with persecution, encouraging them to suffer in this world in order to gain unsurpassed joy and blessings in eternity. They were tempted to enjoy comfort and acceptance here only to forfeit God’s acceptance at the Judgment. It is so hard to see past what we’re facing right now, but we must ready to suffer with Christ (cf. 1 Pet. 4:12-19). Our challenge is to relate to as many people as possible, understanding and loving them without participating with them in what’s not right or making them think that they are right in living contrary to the way of Christ. Politicians may “go along to get along,” but Christians have a higher calling. Make sure your Christian light shows up in the crowd!
An Italian Neuroscientist, Sergio Canavero, announced this week that human head transplants are now possible! I will spare you the gory details except to say it could happen within two years and should involve, in his opinion, someone who has a fully-functioning brain but who suffers from a severe bodily malady like progressive muscular dystrophies or genetic and metabolic disorders (“The Independent,” via Times Of India, 7/3/13).
We could debate the ethics of this, ponder whether Italian neuroscientists just have too much time on their hands, or discuss how realistic the possibility of this is. We might also ask whether or not we should do something just because we have figured out how. While the news out of Italy may seem like science fiction, there is a spiritual need for us to change our “head.”
Too many are riddled with guilt and beset by negative thinking and pessimism. Christians ought not be fatalists. That is a worldly point of view. We have hope (Rom. 5:2) as well as the power of God (cf. Eph. 1:19) to help us cope.
Too many are consumed with lust and fleshly desires. Christians should not be enslaved to such passions. This is deadly and destructive. God can help us, as we will it, to have a clean heart and new spirit within us (Ps. 51:10).
Too many are weighted down with jealousy and envy. They cannot trust, even when they have no reason to suspect and distrust. God can help us cope with these feelings and whatever drives them (cf. Gal. 5:24-26).
Too many are eaten up with anger, hatred, and bitterness. The reverses of life, both real and imagined, can ruin our character. We can feed our grudges until they become a gargantuan monster that turns on us and devours us. God can help us cultivate a forgiving mind, letting go of resentment and allowing Him to transform us (Eph. 4:31-32).
You get the idea. In our own individual ways, we are all “head cases.” We have spiritual struggles in our hearts and minds, things that need changed into the image of Christ. Thank God that He is the Great Physician who has been successfully doing His superior kind of “head transplants” since the beginning of time!