This article is probably not what you might expect from the title.
There is a very real sense in which all Christians understand all other Christians. Most truly and most importantly, we live the same life, which is Christ. We were baptized with one baptism into one body. We are indwelt by one Holy Spirit, children of one Father, God, with one Lord, Jesus Christ, and one faith. We, who are many, are one body, because we partake of one loaf, which is the Lord Jesus, and one cup, which is His blood. This is truth, and it evidences itself.
Each of us is alone before God. We stand naked before Him, not merely as a member of a group but as one person, and some day we will realize our nakedness before Him: hopefully, we realize it more and more as our lives go on. We are in His presence as we can never be in the presence of any other.
Both these truths are evident in the Christian life. You will read the writings of some other Christian, and often enough you may think to yourself, “Oh! I know I don’t understand all he meant. I also know that I understood more of what he meant than even he could put into words!” or “Oh! That’s exactly what I saw, only he said it so much better!” I think that sometimes Christians born and raised in America and in the American so-called “church” – our word “church” comes from a Greek word meaning “belonging to the Lord” – are taught that they do not understand things at all because they know they do not understand them fully; how dare they dare to begin to understand that which they have begun to want and yet which the flesh, which wages war against the Spirit in all of us, most certainly hates? This lie is made more believable, I think, by the fact that sometimes one will run across something in the writings of a saint, which will make one say, “I have no idea what he means, here!” Probably, as you grow, as you have more experiences and more knowledge of God, the times where you say, “Oh! I know at least something of this!” become more often, but they are there already at the beginning.
I have seen a lot of writing and heard a lot of talking about how Christians who live in America have no idea what it is like to be a Christian who lived or lives in Second Century Rome or Twentieth Century Russia, or Eritrea nowadays. There is a sense in which this is quite true: nobody knows what it is like to live any life but their own. You don’t know what it would be like to have lived in Rome for the simple reason that you do not and never have lived in the Roman Empire of that time. You do not know what it is like to be any person but yourself, and no one knows what it is like to be any person but him or herself. We do not know what it is like to have any experience we have not had – even if it is an experience that looks exactly the same: (I think that even drinking a glass of water may be an extremely different experience for different people, and it can even be an extremely different experience in the same day, and not always because of something that can be explained, like thirst). (In fact, I do not think that we always even know what experiences we have had are like, even when we remember them.)
At the same time, if you are a Christian you know what it is like to be a Christian. You know that, however you may sometimes feel, however you may sometimes act, often to your great grief and pain, you desire Jesus Christ above all else, and even if people have made you feel like it is hypocritical, arrogant, and a lie, so that you feel embarrassed to say this even to yourself, yet you want to say with the Apostle Paul, “I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord… I want to know Christ, yes, to know Him in the power of His resurrection and in the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, and so somehow to attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already attained, or already been made perfect, but I press forward to take hold of that for which Christ has also taken hold of me.” You are confident of nothing but the love of God in Jesus Christ: there is nothing else of which you are certain but that Jesus died for you and rose again.
I really don’t think there is as much difference between Christians based on where they have lived and their circumstances as many people seem to think. Someone appeared to think that I think that Christians in America are not real Christians or something like that: that there is something wrong with them because they have been born in and live in the United States of America. I do not think any such thing. I think there are a lot of people who call themselves Christians, but who know nothing of and care nothing for Christ in the United States. I think that many of these people, and some Christians who have been led astray by them, think that they are inferior Christians because of where they were born and live, and also that it is somehow presumptuous to dare to want to know God for Himself and live to His glory. (It is also true that many think that Christians are more blessed in America because of the lack of persecution, the abundance of Bibles – and the seminaries, and, even, systematic theologies! – and that for this reason they know more and are superior to the Christians who have not had these things – some of which are blessings from God – and have been persecuted for Christ – which, we are told, is a blessing, to be rejoiced in. Stranger still, perhaps, it appears that some people both think that they are inferior to other Christians because they have not been persecuted and had that opportunity to witness to and know the Lord, and superior to them because they have many books and have not suffered persecution.) I believe the grace of God is over all, and that salvation and sanctification is a great miracle, equally possible to the Risen Lord and equally a showing-forth of His might, whether they occur in persons in the United States of America or in North Korea.
Copyright 2018 Raina Nightingale