“If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”
– Colossians 3:1-3
We are in Jesus, delivered to this condition by the Father, placed in this circumstance as a gift from Him. But it’s no exaggeration to say that the alternative barely bears thinking about. The world is an unfair and dark place for those who do not reside in Christ. While we are given this as a gift, it is for us to lose—we must work to remain there. In the carnal, the opposite is true.
Classical myth gives us the story of Sisyphus, a corrupt king of Corinth who was punished in the afterlife by having to shift an enormous rock to the top of a hill—a rock that would roll back to the bottom again just before he reached the summit. It’s a metaphor for a thankless, unrewarding task, or a tedious slog with no meaning behind it. Where in Christ we are gifted the summit and it is for us to remain there, in the world we are prone to doubt and fear. In order to clamber out of the weariness and anxiety, we have to constantly work at it, find moments of significance, often having to manufacture them out of whole cloth just to postpone that inevitable moment when the rock will roll to the foot of the hill once more.
Depressing, isn’t it? But let’s look at those moments of significance, the happy beats and pauses that make life in the world worthwhile. There’s the love we have for friends and family, the joy that can come from your children; moments we share together, the simple warmth of companionship and affection; the wonder of nature, the awesome rugged beauty of the world that God created for us; the serene majesty of a sunset and the slow-burning raising of spirits that comes with the dawn. It’s in the subjects and themes of poetry and song, stories that have lived in our shared history for centuries or longer—the idea that joyful, rewarding, full moments in our lives have a kind of transcendence that lifts us out of the mundane and ordinary world, the world that drags us down, and brings us to a place of stillness and peace.
These uplifting moments are thought of as testaments to the human spirit, but it’s another Spirit that inspires that kind of revelation, and in dragging ourselves up the hill, seeking the summit, we are clawing our way up towards something greater than the world, greater than ourselves. All the small victories, the joyful, happy moments we find in our lives are echoes…small glimpses, reflections and refracted glimmers of the unity we find in Jesus. When we try to replicate a single moment of happiness in the world, to find that place once more, we are touching for just a second the edges of that true happiness…painting crude pictures of something glorious barely seen for a moment. Trying to recapture the heart of God in a fleeting encounter, the peace of Christ in an ephemeral occurrence.
The good news—and there’s always Good News for us, thanks to the gift we’ve been given—is that we are already there. There’s a covenant in the person of Christ for each and every one of us, and no one gets left behind. In Christ, we’re automatically elevated to the place that, without Him, we would have to fruitlessly toil towards, forever frustrated by our inability to stay at the top of the mountain. This is the great, simple provision of God towards us—He gives us what we have always wanted, and leaves it to us to ensure that we keep it. That’s our gift to Him.
Being in sync with Christ, in union with Him, brings us peace, joy, rest and harmony. As Christians, those feelings are the evidence that we are abiding in God. They are the affirmation that we are delivered from the carnal and the worldly. Consider for a moment…is your life characterized by frustration, the feeling that you are endlessly climbing with no reward in sight? Do you find yourself living for those moments where you feel risen above the struggle—working for the weekend? Because there is more to you than brief moments, more to your life than grafting and toiling for the odd occasion of warmth and happiness, searching for something that transcends and lifts you up. You’ve already found it. It was given to you before you were born; the feeling of family for those who have lost their own, the feeling of love for those who don’t think they’ll ever find it; stillness and tranquility for those who flail in doubt and fear, harmony and serenity for those who cry out in anger and bitterness.
The world is a dark and unfair place, but thanks to the gift of Christ, we rise above. We rise to the top of the mountain, to the city that He built for us at the very summit.