Magazine article The Christian Century

Three-Dimensional Faith. (Living by the Word)

Magazine article The Christian Century

Three-Dimensional Faith. (Living by the Word)

Article excerpt

Sunday, December 30

Hebrews 2:10-18

WHILE VACATIONING in Orlando, Florida, my wife and I visited the "Terminator 2 Show" at Universal Studios. We entered the studio and received special 3-D glasses. When we peered through the glasses, the length and width of the images on the movie screen were deepened and our experience enhanced.

The glasses created the illusion that every action in the film was directed toward us. By adding another dimension, our experience seemed richer and more complete. After all, a 3-D picture is more comprehensive than a two-dimensional one. In fact, we often use the idiom "3-D" to refer to experiences whose effects are more far-reaching than usual.

Despite all of the technological wonders, however, the Universal picture was still artificial. By contrast, Paul declares that the revelation of Christ makes a real difference in at least three different dimensions: the personal, the communal and the cosmic.

Christ effects a phenomenal personal transformation in Paul himself. Even when he is imprisoned, Paul celebrates God's free gift poured upon him in his commission to be an apostle. Using key words such as "mystery," "revelation" and "servant," he alludes to a life-changing encounter with Christ that provides him a new, "three-dimensional" identity (Eph. 3:13). His captivity in a jail is actually part of his calling card, for Paul is not just any prisoner. He is a prisoner of and for Christ!

Paul's imprisonment has great symbolic significance. As a special envoy of Christ, he recognizes that, just as Jesus suffered on behalf of others, so too the apostle suffers for the salvific benefit of the gentile converts.

Paul considers his suffering to be a badge of honor and a means of achieving solidarity with the sufferings of Christ. Paul may desire parole from his physical imprisonment, yet even if he walks out of jail as a "free man," he is still bound in obedient servitude to Christ. Because of his personal transformation, Paul serves a lifetime sentence as a "prisoner of Christ."

The second dimension that Christ has transformed is communal existence. God brings all of God's children to glory. In Hebrews 2:12, Jesus responds to this with, "I will proclaim your [God's] name to my brothers and sisters."

Since Christianity is now predominantly a "gentile movement," we often forget that Christianity began as a Jewish "messianic reform movement." The issue of whether and how to include gentiles as "brothers and sisters" was a matter of sizable debate, and there was hostility between the two groups. …

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