Much of Christianity has become influenced by the Prosperity Gospel…so focused on the victory of resurrection that we tend to think real faith equals worldly success and good fortune. But the way of Christ has always been the way of the cross. While there is a future victory where all is made right, the victory we have in Jesus is found now in the trials of self-emptying love. I love how sarcastic the Apostle Paul gets with the Corinthian Christians who think they’re too good to live like Christ:
8 Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! You have begun to reign—and that without us! How I wish that you really had begun to reign so that we also might reign with you! 9 For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like those condemned to die in the arena. We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to human beings. 10 We are fools for Christ, but you are so wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are honored, we are dishonored! 11 To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. 12 We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; 13 when we are slandered, we answer kindly. We have become the scum of the earth, the garbage of the world—right up to this moment.” 1 Corinthians 4, (NIV)
Charles Wesley’s hymn, “And Can It Be,” is truly a hymn of victory…of fully sharing in the crown of Christ. There is great hope and joy in trusting that though all is not well now, Christ will one day reign in full victory. I think all of us would benefit from that confidence. But I also think we all would benefit from taking the crown of thorns as our own now. If Jesus, and all in him, is mine, then that includes the scars. The kingdom now has weeds and flowers, sun and rain, garbage and beauty. As we conclude our five-part series on the nature of truth in Wesley’s hymn, I would say this: truth is paradox. To live in Christ is to live in tension between struggle and victory. The armor of Christ looks more like the clothes of a servant than those of someone protecting the empire. This great mystery still puzzles the angels and us, but but I believe it’s one worth awakening to. To become a fool for Christ is more in the way you live in humble service than in the way you boast about your tight reign on truth. So live into your convictions. Place your trust in this truth. And let your humility be the proof of your trust.