Galatians 2:20. I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Galatians 2:20 is not a text about the imitation of Christ. Thomas A’Kempis’ classic work The Imitation of Christ seeks to give the Christian a motivation to be Christ like by the imitating of Christ to the pleasure of God.
But the great irony is that this sort of legalistic approach to life can never produce the humility of Christ, for at it’s root is a prideful works approach to pleasing God. I fear that this is how many of us read Galatians 2:20. “Go be Christ to each other.” But this too is just a moralistic endeavor. It is not rooted in grace or faith.
Christians are looking for experiences that connect them to the historic death and life of Jesus. We want to walk where he walked, and see where he lived and died. We want to imitate Christ in this way.
Yes, Galatians 2:20 and “Christ lives in me” is a participation in Christ and his cross, but this should not be reduced to somehow seeing ourselves on the literal cross 2000 years ago. Our co-crucifixion goes beyond this. It is our participation in what the cross accomplishes, freedom from Sin, and Death, and Law. Not simply a mystical emotional connection to the suffering of Jesus as an attempt to appease our guilt over his suffering for us.
Galatians 2:20 is not a daily decision to die to sin and live to God. It is making daily decisions that flow from the reality that I have ALREADY died to sin and been raised to God. It is an event that happened to us, and life is now a life of faith in that event. It is a participation in the death of Christ so that Sin, Death, and Law have no power over you anymore. “Christ lives in me” is NOT A MATTER OF SELF DENIAL. It is a whole new nature, a new reality.
“In Christ” gives your life a whole new orientation, a new direction, a new goal. We are now “alive to God” (Gal. 2:19). Again, this goes way beyond an imitation of Christ. This is an entire new reality. And yes, this new reality influences my decisions, and my self denial, and my Christ likeness. But it is this co-crucifixion and co-resurrection that changes my self identification. My self identification is not to be grounded in some new morality. Because for every time I am more moral as a Christian, there will be 100 times when I fail morally as a Christian. Rather, my self identification is found solely in Christ.
“To live is Christ.” “Christ lives in me.” These are not statements of imitation but of identity. Imitation keeps the focus on self. Identity transfers the focus back where it belongs- on Christ himself in all his crucified glory.
And I’ll leave this here just for fun…