I was aboard a plane waiting to depart to the West Coast. All passengers were on, but the boarding door had yet to be closed. The flight attendant came over the inter-plane sound system and said, “Would the lady with the wheelchair please come to the front?”
My first thought was, `can the lady really make it to the front of the plane?’ After all walking to the front of the plane and being with a wheelchair would not appear to be doable. And if it was, it would get my full attention. Shortly after the request a very able bodied woman made her way up the aisle.
It was then the distinction flashed into my recognition sphere (fancy way of saying I got it). Being WITH a wheelchair and being IN a wheelchair is, necessarily, not the same thing. This lady was with the wheelchair, but not in it herself. She was, obviously, accompanying a person who was in the wheelchair. She was alongside the person, connecting with her and being of what help she could be.
This got me thinking (and I trust I am not making too big a leap), there is a difference of a person being with Christ as opposed to being a person in Christ? Often we think of them simultaneously. The assumption is that if a person is with Christ they are also in Christ. But I think, I think, this is not the correct assumption.
In the Bible we see many people who were with Christ. They hung with him. They enjoyed his presence. They benefited from his miracles. They were able to catch a bit of the overflow from his early popularity. The crowd was with him, but I am not sure they were all in him.
The challenge of being with and not in is the ease in which one might disassociate from who you are with. Lots of those who were with him, were not so “with” when he was arrested. Many of those who were with him, were not so “with” when he was crucified. Quite a few who were with him, were not so “with” when he was taken off the cross. With can support us for a season, but seldom sustain us in the stress times.
It is Paul who tells us that those who are IN Christ are new creations. “In” does make a difference. “In” is fully immersed. “In” is engulfed by. “In” is full throttle. “In” seldom looks back, rarely regrets, minimally wishes to go back and wades through doubt.
“In” is the variable between giving up and going on. “In” is the constant in commitment. “In” is the handle to grasp when afraid, the reminder our choice was correct and the wall to steady ourselves in shaky times.
So what is it for us? When we plant our churches, lead our people, attempt to transform our churches, motivate our movements, connect to our communities, challenge our complacency, repurpose our ministries, fuel our passions and pursue our calls? Are we doing these things with Christ or in Christ? It really does make all the difference.