Column – The Truth About Newness of Life
Published 6:38 pm Friday, October 28, 2022
The year was 2013 and I was in Huntsville, Alabama to attend a retreat for church staff associate pastors. We paid a small fee to attend, but by far the main expenses to the event were lodging and whatever transportation it took.
So, I was surprised when they told us that included in our meager registration fee was a trip to visit the Rocket and Space museum there in the city. They gave us a choice of two time slots to go, and I must have chosen the less popular of the two.
Much to my surprise upon arrival there at the NASA facility, I saw only one other of my fellow conference attendees. I knew him well, so we joined up quickly. The two of us walked in, and I confessed that my main interest was to see the colossal Saturn V rocket that hung from the ceiling inside the building.
I’m not a huge space enthusiast, but this was a unique opportunity. The Saturn V was a rocket NASA built to send people to the moon. It was a type of rocket called a heavy lift vehicle. Its sheer power was mind-boggling.
The two of us were standing there gawking at the enormity of the thing when an older gentleman walked up to us. He wore a credential nametag on his lanyard and asked if we might like to have a private tour of the museum.
So, off we went. He was showing us a few things when he casually mentioned that he had actually moved to Huntsville in 1964 to head up a team of engineers. They were charged with inventing from scratch what would turn out to be the rocket’s stage three booster.
We were amazed at our good fortune. Minutes before, we were prepared to just walk around on our own. Instead, we got a personalized tour. All because a retired bona fide rocket scientist had cared enough to stick around and be an ambassador for NASA at its museum. It had become an indelible part of his life at some point, and not just a job.
In 2 Corinthians 5: 16-21, the apostle Paul delivers one of the most beautiful lines in all of Christian scripture. In verse 17 he says, “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new.”
As I read this, I marvel at the sheer power within. Our faith is, among other things, based on the notion that people can actually change. It also acknowledges that in some foundational way, we all need to change when it comes to yielding to the presence and power of the almighty.
Here is the deal though. The most crucial word contained in that beautiful verse just might be one of its smallest: the word “if.” Generations back, we so embraced the evangelical aspects of the faith that we may have made newness in Christ sound like a mere moment. We may have rendered the importance of Christianity to an oath. An unintended consequence is that our faith can seem as though all that matters is tucked neatly away in the realm of someday.
What the apostle writes about is more immediate. He says that “if…” a person truly is in Christ, the old has passed away. Behold, everything is made new. The conditional filter through which these promises are strained admits that one could swear an oath to Jesus and not completely yield themself.
Like the apostle Paul and his contemporaries, we are also called to be ambassadors for the Christian cause. Not to be just mere consumers of what our faith can do for us or might promise to us. Genuine faith becomes an indelible part of who we are, not just a label.
Rather than a call to stand on every street corner and bother everyone about Jesus, we are called to something more genuine and useful. But if this faith is a genuine part of us and not just something that we are culturally or ceremonially attached to, then Paul says it should bear itself out in some noticeable ways.
The truth about newness of life is that it’s hard for people to change. It’s also hard to believe that people can change. Toughest yet may be for me to believe that I can change, and that I want to. Yet, that’s exactly what a genuine faith through Christ is supposed to do for every last one of us.