The great Christian message of Jesus is not perfect happiness as we usually consider it. It is not about the personal acquisition of wealth or land. Instead, the main thread that runs through Christianity is to “give up yourself and you will find your real self.” CS Lewis wrote this and went on to explore the paradox of submitting oneself to this type of death presently in the hope of life eternally. This death (not literally “you have died of dysentery” death…), in a manner of speaking, will ultimately bring about the arrival of life, both now and forever. The new life that we experience, this “real self” as Lewis suggested, will be manifested in this life. The Spirit brings new life for those who are in Christ. Paul reminds us,
You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.
The perceived loss of one’s present life is really the gaining of a greater life.
The Christian narrative is truly one wrought with seemingly paradoxical statements. Our life is marked by crucifomity, being made into the image of the crucified Christ which often means suffering. How painful it is to realize this! I would much rather be comfortable in my faith and ignore this, but that is simply not so. My hope and prayer is that those in Christ might realize that we are truly at home when we learn this act of obedience. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote in The Cost of Discipleship, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” Indeed this is a tough thing, but where else can we go? For it is only in Christ that the words of eternal life are offered.
Let us believe and hold fast to them throughout the Lenten season and beyond.