What else results from our being in Christ?
When Jesus introduced the metaphor of the vine and the branches, he was emphasizing the concept of nourishment: the vine feeds the branches, because it is the conduit of the branches’ lifeblood (to use a decidedly non-botanical term). The branch cannot survive unless it is attached to the vine.
On the positive side, then, the vine brings life and stability. Paul speaks of our being “rooted and … established in the faith, as you have been taught” (Co 2.7).
Since my church is halfway between my city’s rescue mission and one of its soup kitchens, we get a fair amount of foot traffic between the two, with consequent opportunity to interact with a variety of homeless people. The stories I hear from them, and the obstacles in their lives, will break your heart. Most of them have no sense of stability because they have no job, no income, no place to live, no way to get around. Everything’s just up in the air. I can buy them a meal or a few bags of groceries—and I have—but that’s not really a solution. And when you start looking for solutions, as those with extensive experience dealing with the homeless will tell you, the obstacles are often insurmountable. Sometimes they come from the homeless person himself; sometimes from the civic structure; sometimes from family; sometimes from somewhere else.
That level of instability is a deeply frightening and frustrating thing.
In Christ, Paul says, we’re rooted; we’re built up; we’re established.
Solid. Firm. Confident.
We don’t always feel that way. Most often that’s because we forget the Source of our stability and look to ourselves, or someone else, to solve our problem.
That’s a shaky foundation.
But the more you know—and practice—about your union with Christ, the fewer times those earthquakes in your soul will happen.
There’s more to this concept.
In the verse I quoted above, there’s a set of ellipsis marks. Whenever you see those in a quotation, you should ask yourself, “What did he leave out? and why? What’s he up to?” Bowdlerizing is a thing, more these days than ever before. Did I leave something out because it weakened my point?
Well, not this time. 🙂
I left something out because I was saving it for later. Between “rooted” and “established,” which are closely similar concepts, Paul places the phrase “built up in him.” That’s a step beyond the other two; it speaks of not only surviving, but growing.
We shouldn’t be surprised that Jesus includes this same idea in his original metaphor of the vine and the branches. He speaks of the branches “bearing fruit” and “bring[ing] forth more fruit” (Jn 15.2) and “bring[ing] forth much fruit” (Jn 15.5, cf 8).
Jesus doesn’t unite us with himself just so that we’ll be safe—though indeed we will be. As he left, Jesus promised that he would always be with us (Mt 28.20), and he promised that he would send his Spirit, who “dwells with you, and shall be in you” (Jn 14.17)—and who has been in us, since Pentecost. And Jesus also told us, “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Lk 12.32).
Yes, we are safe, but as the old saying goes, “A ship in a harbor is safe; but that is not what ships are for.” (I don’t know whether John A. Shedd or Grace Hopper originally said that, but it’s true regardless.)
Jesus unites us with himself so that we will thrive through our intimate connection with him.
Is your connection with him like that? You can’t thrive—really thrive—without it.