As Homestead Mennonite Church continues to prayerfully seek God's will in filling the role of pastor in our congregation, we also continue to be blessed to have diverse members of the Body of Christ deliver messages of wisdom, hope, and love to our participants. In our most recent remote corporate worship service, we were privileged to be joined by Marta Castillo, Leadership Minister of Intercultural Formation at Mosaic Conference, streaming live from Pennsylvania. Marta spoke to us about being in Christ and what that can mean for our daily journey of faith and how we relate to others. Her message
inspired and provoked me on to further existential contemplation, and so I am embarking on another two-part series, this time focusing on the notions of being "in Christ" and having "Christ in us."
We are generally accustomed to expressions of being "in" something: in a hurry, in trouble, in line, in the mood, in love, etc. We understand that these may indicate a physical condition, but can also describe a more figurative, circumstantial, cognitive, or even emotional state or position. As with many matters of spiritual truth and awareness, being “in Christ” represents a mode of existence and operation that extends through many aspects of our lives, intending to encompass our entire range of thoughts and actions.
Our attribution of being "in" something often refers to being fully involved and engrossed in an experience. In the field of electronic entertainment, those of us who develop, design, or participate in computer or video games may refer to the quality of being fully drawn into a digital virtual environment as "immersive."
When a game provides such convincing, authentic, or intriguing sensory and cognitive interactions that players are compelled to anticipate, assimilate, and embody the personality and behaviors of the game's characters — while also allowing for a measure of individuality to be manifested on the part of the players themselves during the gaming activity — we will tend to describe that game as very immersive. We find ourselves "in" the game, our perceptions completely engulfed and bound by the constructs of the simulation, doing our best to fulfill certain roles and expectations as defined by the game's plot and parameters.
I wonder if being in Christ might be something like this kind of immersive experience, where we take on the qualities and characteristics of that which we are meant to be emulating. I suspect that the idea of immersion in its various formulations may indeed contribute to this understanding of which we seek.
The television series "Star Trek: The Next Generation" (and its spin-offs) features fictional holographic technology called the "holodeck" which generates realistic simulated environments utilized for various purposes — recreation, research, escapism, etc. In a particular episode, one of the engineering
officers of the starship USS Enterprise, Lieutenant Reginald Barclay, suffers from a form of addiction to the simulation fantasies that he produces within the holodeck. This compulsion is partly an outcome of his general social awkwardness and ultimately ends up interfering with his ability to perform his duties on the ship effectively. His best friend, Chief Engineer Geordi LaForge,
attempts to confront him regarding this situation.
LAFORGE: You're going to be able to write the book on holo-addiction. Look, I know how easy it is to get caught up in it. I fell in love in there once.
LAFORGE: But I knew when it was time to turn it off and say goodbye. It wasn't easy, but I did it.
BARCLAY: You know, the people I create in there are more real to me than anyone I meet out here, except maybe you, Commander.
LAFORGE: I need you out here, Reg. Now more than ever.
As we may observe, one aspect of a full immersion of consciousness or sensation involves a kind of psychological and emotional commitment to embrace the perceived reality of that in which we are immersed. Sometimes, this occurs to such a degree that we can have difficulty distinguishing this
experience from anything outside the immersion, or we may end up preferring the "alternative" reality that results from this total immersion.
In the case of potential addiction to something like simulated reality, most of us can probably realize the detrimental effects of such dependence on artificiality. However, with regard to being in Christ, absolute immersion can facilitate more effectively fulfilling our objective to be like Jesus, leading us toward a more accurate and satisfying understanding and appreciation of what is true and real.
In the New Testament, the conceptualization of being in Christ occurs regularly throughout the various texts. We are assured of various boons bestowed upon us due to this intended immersion. In some of the letters to the various first-century congregations, we are told that the following products of grace — among many — are derived from such a status: we have been raised to "walk in newness of life" (Romans 6:3-4); we are dead to sin and alive to God (Romans 6:11); we have been conferred the gift of eternal life (Romans 6:23); we are no longer condemned (Romans 8:1); we are part of the new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17); we are children of God (Galatians 3:26); we are blessed with every spiritual blessing (Ephesians 1:3); we are seated with him in the heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6); we are created for good works (Ephesians 2:10). One could readily associate these with a kind of alternative (i.e., authentic) reality resulting from a true and ongoing conversion and immersion experience.
From scripture we understand that our immersion in Christ is related to the unity of the Body of Christ as a whole, as well as our individual identity as members of that Body. In Jesus's prayer to the Father as recorded in the seventeenth chapter of the gospel of John, he emphasizes this unity between himself, the Father, and all believers, reiterating the phraseology of being in him and of him being in us. It seems clear that being in Christ has some direct correlation to having Christ in us.
We will explore this further in the next article. In the meantime, let us
remember to invite the Holy Spirit to lead us into the most immersive
experience in Christ that we can imagine — not a mere digital simulation, but a real and life-altering exploration of faith, hope, and love.