Yesterday we did a bit of thinking about the apparently strange juxtaposition of justification by faith and final judgment based on works.
I’ve been wondering if there are a couple of roads we might run down to reconceive what saving faith looks like.
The first facet worth exploring is the conjunction of faith with our union with Christ. Put simply: what if we started thinking less of “believing in Jesus” and more of “believing that brings us into Christ”?
How would this help? A couple of thoughts come to mind.
First, being “in Christ” is in part about occupying a certain kind of space. It is not simply the space in which we are united with others in the body of Christ–though that is true as well.
It is also about occupying the cosmic space that has been freed from the rule of sin and law and death (Rom 5-8). This means that faithing into Christ means being part of the new creation in which faithfulness to God is the only possible way of life.
Second, being “in Christ” here on earth entails not simply occupying space, but occupying a defining narrative. To be in Christ is to be united with Christ in his death and his resurrection.
To be united with Christ in his death entails a calling, a core identity, that demands a certain way of life: laying down our own lives so that others might live. Faithing into Christ means entering a story of salvific self-giving.
But it also means being part of a story that resolves in salvific resurrection life. If “occupying cosmic space” is part of the “already” aspect of being united with the resurrected Christ, what I’m talking about here is the “not yet” aspect. We will one day be united with Christ in full and final resurrection life.
But you see–this is the reward, extended at the final judgement, for those who have been faithful to God. Faithing into Christ means that the story we enter and live out in our communal and personal narratives will meet the same climactic conclusion as Christ’s own self-giving story of love.
When we think of “belief resulting in union with Christ,” we are speaking of a narrative of salvation rather than a one-off moment in the past that can be dissociated from what comes next.
There is a necessary way of life that results in a final judgment that affirms the cruciform story of the faithful.