Galatians 2.20: “the life I now live in the flesh I live by the Son of God’s faith, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
Jesus died for me, a sinner. This familiar phrase resonates deep at the heart of God’s love and Christ’s atoning death. Jesus came to save sinners, he came to put to end the works of the devil, he came to give life and give it abundantly.
However, from a personal point of view, I have always had some resistance to the common evangelistic message that turned Jesus’ death into being about me. It felt a bit narcissistic and self-absorbed to make Jesus’ death all about me. Of course, that is how love works; that you as an individual are important. When someone loves you, the person you are matters to them. Your wellbeing, your feelings, your thoughts, they all matter. Not necessarily in the sense that you get what you want or that there is no hope for you to change, but in the sense that love does not invalidate you as a person. Yet, this love does promote a positive change for one’s life, as the Apostle Paul says about his own life being lived by Jesus’ faith. If there is a passage that affirms our personal significance to Jesus, Galatians 2.20 is it.
Nevertheless, there is still something potentially narcissistic about the me-focused nature of some evangelistic appeals. For Paul, Christ’s love for him is connected to the inclusion of Jews and Gentiles together, no longer being separated by the Torah. To be in Christ is not simply about one’s own spiritual connection to Jesus up in the heavenly realm, but to be in Christ is to be connected to God’s People through the Spirit who baptizes us into Christ and brings forth our confession that God is our Father alongside believers from all peoples. To be in Christ is to belong to the people that Jesus Christ has redeemed. To live our life according to Christ’s faith is to take on the same purpose that Christ has in loving and sacrificing ourselves for others.
Christ died for me a sinner, not simply that I can go to heaven, but that I can participate in the type of life with fellow believers here in the present in such a form that will be our future in the full inauguration of new creation, where we will all live together in the presence of God. For Paul, it is relevant that Christ loved and gave himself for Paul because Paul was a persecutor of the Church; by all accounts he should be disqualified from any sort of proclamation of the Gospel for the Church, but yet it is Christ’s mission and purpose that unites Paul with those who believe in Jesus. Jesus’ death radically redefines the enter of Paul’s life to live with Christ’s purpose for God’s people, rather than as a persecutor of them.
So, when we think of Christ dying for us, it has a social dimension alongside the temporal dimension of eternity. In the body of Christ, the reconciliation of all things and all peoples are coming together from their prior state of being hostile to God and in conflict with each other. To allow the life of Christ into our lives in the flesh, this means that we in our lives live out this purpose of God’s reconciliation, both in our own relationships and in our proclamation to others about the Gospel. That Christ died for ‘me’ is a deep, Spiritual call away from the narcissism that evangelical appeals can often times be heard as and instead to be united and participate with with the other people who have received the love of Christ, who gave Himself for them.