Past, Future, Present
If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which
are above, where Christ sitteth
Let’s be honest: for many of you, the Resurrection is something that happened way back when. Or it’s something to which you’re looking forward – in the distant future. Either way, it’s hard to see.
And there you are in the middle, squinting back at that first Easter (through the record of Scripture), peering intensely into the future (by the promises of Scripture), but hardly able to see how something so far in the distance – in either direction – matters here and now.
How do you identify yourself? The question of identity is fascinating: sociologists love to explore how we humans mold our identities. Perhaps you identify yourself mainly in terms of your family name or heritage. Perhaps you identify yourself based on where you live, or on your occupation, or even on which teams you support. In any event, your identity will shape how you view this life.
For many of us, our identities center on such things as where we live or our work or hobbies. These things are fine in and of themselves; but they’re awfully terrestrial – and they reflect a limited view of the meaning of life.
For us Christians, Easter – and nothing less – must shape our identities.
In writing to the Colossians, St. Paul brings the past and the future to bear on the present as he describes the mindset of a Christian. Paul says plainly that it’s the work of our Lord Jesus Christ in the past, and the future glory that awaits you and me, that molds our identities.
Notice in those first four verses of Colossians 3 the way in which Paul connects what Jesus did 2,000 years ago with who you and I are this very moment. You and I have died with Jesus to the control and lure of sin. You and I have been raised up with Jesus to a new and powerful life. When Jesus appears again in glory at the Last Day, you and I will appear with him in glory. As a result of these past and future certainties, you and I have a new identity: our life is hidden with Christ in God. We no longer are chained to our guilt and sin, no longer under the dominion of worldliness, no longer resigned to hopelessness.
Because of Jesus’ victorious work in the past and his coming again in the future, you and I have a new identity. In fact, we have a new reality: you and I belong to the living Savior, and our home is with him above.
With good reason, then, does the apostle exhort you and me to seek those things which are above. Our affections, or hearts and minds, are to be set on the things of heaven and not on the things of earth – and our lives are to evince such a mindset.
But what precisely does it mean to seek those things which are above?
It doesn’t mean you don’t go to work, eat or tend to family concerns. It doesn’t mean you write off all pleasurable activities or quit your job and go into full-time missionary work in the name of “being spiritual.”
Instead, seeking those things which are above first involves understanding your new identity as a child of the living God (even more than seeing yourself as a child of your earthly parents) and secondly involves viewing all of life from an eternal perspective.
If your affections are in heaven – if you’re seeking to honor Christ – then work becomes a field of endeavor to the glory of God as you seek to reflect His order, beauty and kindness in your labors. Family life becomes a mini-church in which you love and provoke one another to good works. Even recreation becomes a venue for worship as you utilize your mind and body in the enjoyment of God’s creation.
Seeking the things above means a gentle word when you’d normally fire off a verbal missile. It involves a few minutes’ compassionate listening to that coworker whom no one, quite frankly, likes. It involves taking inventory of your thoughts, words and choices to see how closely you are mirroring the holiness of God. It involves stepping back from every situation and remembering that you are a reborn child of God, a heavenly miracle called to bring heaven’s truth to earth every day.
And it’s possible only because of the Resurrection: Christ’s, and yours in him.
You and I tend to isolate Easter and the Second Coming and exclude them from everyday life. Instead of finding our identity in the King of Kings, we try to find meaning in things that fade: names, cultures, possessions. No wonder we bobble through life from one situation to the next, never sure of our meaning, never finding real purpose.
Thus the Lord calls you to seek the things that are above.
Yes, get up and go to work tomorrow. No, don’t walk around in a “holy haze.” Shirking responsibility and feigning spirituality are not “seeking the things that are above.”
Instead, remember who you are in Christ: dead to the world’s control and persuasion, alive to life as God intended for you to live it. The glorious past work of Jesus, and his mighty coming in the future, coalesce right here and right now in your new life.
You are a citizen of heaven.
You will be a citizen of heaven.
In a world of death, let us – in thought, word and deed – show those around us the light and life of the heaven that is our home.