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Great Themes of Scripture: New Testament
Great Themes of Scripture: New Testament

Mutual Indwelling

Friday, July 9, 2021

Great Themes of Scripture: New Testament

Mutual Indwelling
Friday, July 9, 2021

The whole movement of the Bible is toward ever-greater Incarnation and embodiment, until the mystery of mutual indwelling is finally experienced and enjoyed even here in this world, in this life, and in this body. It then becomes the banquet that we call eternal life or heaven. For Christians, Jesus, the Christ, is the ultimate symbol of this divine goal, pattern, and embodiment: “When Christ is revealed, and his life is your life, you will be revealed in all your glory with him” (Colossians 3:4). Henceforth we know our true and lasting life in the new “force field” that Paul calls the Body of Christ and not in individual or private perfection.

Paul’s notion of the Body of Christ has a material and cosmic character to it, and begins in this world. Yes, there is a “new heaven” but there is also a “new earth” (Revelation 21:1). In this mutual indwelling we no longer live just as ourselves, but in a larger force field called the Body of Christ, webbed together by the Holy Spirit.

What the full biblical revelation has given us is the history within the history, the coherence inside of the seeming incoherence. If we don’t get this inner pattern, then religion becomes simply aimless anecdotes—just little stories here and there, with no design or direction. Only in the final chapter of the Bible can it say, “Now God lives among humans, they have become God’s people, and he has become their God” (Revelation 21:3).

Here’s where Brian McLaren envisions the “great themes” of Scripture ending up, in the reconciliation of God’s new heaven and new earth:

Imagine a moment before the Big Bang banged. Imagine a creativity, brilliance, fertility, delight, energy, power, glory, wisdom, wonder, greatness, and goodness sufficient to express itself in what we know as the universe. Try to imagine it, even though you know you cannot: a creative imagination and energy so great that it would produce light, gravity, time, and space . . . galaxies, stars, planets, and oceans . . . mountains, valleys, deserts, and forests . . . . gorillas, dolphins, golden retrievers, and us.

And then dare to imagine that this is the great, big, beautiful, mysterious goodness, wholeness, and aliveness that surrounds us and upholds us even now.

Finally, try to imagine that this is also the great, big, beautiful, mysterious goodness, wholeness, and aliveness into which all of us and all creation will be taken up—in a marriage, in a homecoming, in a reunion, in a celebration. . . .

The whole story flows toward reconciliation, not in human creeds or constitutions, but in love, the love of the One who gave us being and life. . .

So our journey in the story of creation, the adventure of Jesus, and the global uprising of the Spirit has come full circle. It all came from God in the beginning, and now it all comes back to God in the end. [1]

[1] Brian D. McLaren, We Make the Road by Walking: A Year-Long Quest for Spiritual Formation, Reorientation, and Activation (Jericho Books: 2014), 261, 262.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality (St. Anthony Messenger Press: 2008), 211-213.

Story from Our Community:
In midlife, I had a spiritual crisis. I found the inconsistencies of a literal Bible reading, along with judgmental and prescriptive attitudes, impossible to reconcile. I gave up on Christianity for many years. After a difficult period, I was drawn back, listening to Scripture and evening prayers, and allowing them to wash over me. I grew to understand that Christ not only loved me all along but loves everyone. Since then I discovered Richard Rohr’s alternative orthodoxy and now know a deep joy in my life, while also trying to serve others and appreciating all that God wants for all of us. —Rob B.

Image credit: Oliver, Stoneware (detail), 2014, photograph, Flickr, Creative Commons 2.0.
Image inspiration: Four vessels on a windowsill warmed by the sun reveal a simple beauty. The message of Christ to love is simple. We complicate it.
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