President's Message: Becoming New | CBE International

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President's Message: Becoming New

Man and Woman Together in Christ

Do you remember what first attracted you to Christ? What was it about the gospel that turned your head? Was it the promise of wisdom or strength for difficult circumstances? Was it contact with loving and hopeful Christians? Did even a small step of faith lighten life’s burdens, giving you the sense that something truly new was possible?

Intriguingly, Scripture depicts Christian conversion as a second birth. Confused by this, Nicodemus questioned how anyone can enter the womb a second time (John 3:4). For Jesus, the second womb experience is baptism—a dying to sin and a rising united to Christ (Rom. 6:3–5). Whether we are male or female, and regardless of our class or ethnic origins, our second birth joins us not only to Christ but also to one another, for though Christians are many, we are one body and individually we are members of one another (Rom. 12:5, 1 Cor. 12:27). Because of our interconnectedness as one body, our personal renewal has an enormous ethical and social expression. Together we are children of light, known by our fruit, living in ways that are good, right, and true (Eph. 5:8–9).

Scripture, therefore, consistently characterizes spiritual rebirth as a moral and ethical renewal enacted socially as the church, revealing God’s presence and purposes to the world. For this reason, Galatians 3:27–29 is a central text for Paul. To be baptized into Christ is to imitate Christ, in whom social hierarchies and animosity are overcome. Whether Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female, all Christians, without distinction, walk in newness of life, taking up their cross equally to serve the world as Christ did. This is the new wine which bursts the old wineskins.

This is the foundation of our newness in Christ as male and female. As God’s new creation, we imitate Jesus by giving ourselves up, especially for the outcast, the marginalized and oppressed, and those without a voice. What does this mean for male authority? According to Richard Hays,

It is the husbands (not wives) who are called to emulate Christ’s example of giving themselves up in obedience for the sake of the other (Eph. 5:25). To read such a text—which calls for husbands to love and tenderly care for their wives—as though it somehow warranted a husband’s domination or physical abuse of his wife can only be regarded as a bizarre—indeed blasphemous—misreading. It is precisely the focal image of the cross that ensures that the followers of Jesus—men and women alike—must read the New Testament as a call to renounce violence and coercion. (Richard Hays, The Moral Vision of the New Testament, 197)

Baptism into Christ’s life, death, and resurrection is a spiritual rebirth that opens an entirely new moral and ethical life for all Christians. Those with cultural privilege, as most men have had throughout history, are to be the first to love sacrificially. As head of the church, Christ sacrificed his life, so unlike the head of Rome—the emperor—who demanded every citizen be willing to die for him. In taking up our cross, we suffer beside and if possible, on behalf of, the marginalized and abused, never engaging their suffering at a distance or as an abstraction. And, we never demand they sacrifice for us. Like Christ, we share their sorrows and joys personally as if our own, just as husbands also love and care for their wives as if they were truly one flesh (Eph. 5:28–32).

For Christians, new life comes through the self-giving of Calvary, enacted as the moral and social work of the church, carrying the burdens of the dispossessed, which is the privilege of all who are born again and walk in newness of life. For this reason, Calvary is the epicenter of our new life in Christ, lived socially in service to all. Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God (Eph. 5:1–2).

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