Asked that question rather bluntly (as above), what would you say? My immediate thought was what I’m going through right now. That’s my reality; it’s having to deal with family, job and health needs, and the reality of living in a world that’s getting crazier by the minute pressing in on me mentally, emotionally and financially.
But what’s a Christian’s answer to that question?
Scripture tells us we’re living in two realities: the reality of living in this “present evil age” (Galatians 1:4), but also the reality of being “hidden with Christ” now too (Colossians 3:3). As Christians, then, we’re living in two worlds at the same time. On the one hand, we’ve “been raised with Christ and seated with him in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 2:6), but on the other hand, Jesus prayed that we not be taken “out of the world” (John 17:15). So, we’re stuck here in this world still, but we’ve also been raised into the world where Jesus is.
But why would God do that to us? Why leave us in this world when Jesus’ resurrection lifted us into his world? Surely, it would be better to get us out of this world into the eternal security of Jesus’ world, so this world doesn’t overwhelm us.
It’s a dilemma, echoed by Paul in Philippians 1:23-24 when he wrote, “I am torn between the two; I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body” – and stay in this reality here.
So Paul would agree that, yes, it would be “better by far” to “be with Christ” forever in his world – but – he also realized there was a purpose in him staying in this world, and a reason why Jesus prayed for us to remain here physically too. And Paul gives us the reason too, in verse 20, “that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body.”
This was the reality Paul “always” lived in, that while he was still in his physical body Christ would be honoured and magnified – or “more accurately known,” as one translation phrases it. And who would Paul be doing this for? “For you,” he said in verse 24. Paul lived to see people grasp the greatness of Jesus. And it worked in Ephesus, because “the name of the Lord Jesus was held in high honour” (Acts 19:17).
This was why it was “necessary” for Paul to “remain in the body,” as he phrased it, so that in how he spoke and acted he could be a visible reflection of Jesus to people. If Paul, then, had been asked just as bluntly, “So what reality are you living in?” he would likely have replied, “The reality of reflecting Jesus in my life, so people get to see and understand just how great he is.”
But if asked, “How is that possible? How can you accurately reflect Jesus when you aren’t Jesus?” Paul could handily reply, “Ah, but I live in another reality too, that of being raised with Jesus where he fills me with himself (Colossians 2:10).”
This explains why we live in two realities at the same time. We remain in this reality so people get to see how great Jesus is in us, but we also experience the reality of Jesus filling us with himself so people CAN see Jesus in us. And that second reality becomes more real as Jesus does fill us with himself, and we sense we really are reflecting him more accurately in how we speak and act.
And to think that God set it up this way, that while we remain in these physical bodies of ours, Jesus is being made real in us. And that’s the reality we Christians are living in.