Newnesses

Oop! It snuck up on me. Suddenly—new year!

Well, here, I give you this:

ὥστε εἴ τις ἐν Χριστῷ, καινὴ κτίσις·
τὰ ἀρχαῖα παρῆλθεν, ἰδοὺ γέγονεν καινά.

2 Corinthians 5:17

So that if anyone [be] in Christ—new creation! The old things have passed away—look! [they] have become new [or “new things have come to be”]!

The transit from December 31 to January 1 is absolutely artificial. It corresponds to no real stop-start in the heavens or on earth or under the earth. Nothing anywhere becomes new by virtue of this calendrical passage. Nothing in your heart or mind or body, or mine, is renewed when we flip the page in the calendar—certainly not automatically, nor even by dint of the most heroic effort we can muster. The same old same-old—ta archaia, the old things—persistently inhere in me, and in you. Witness our decades (for some of us) of failed new year’s resolutions. I wave my wand and with a grand flourish reach into my hat—and pull out the same scraggly old rabbit—no, it’s an albatross!—that you’ve beheld hanging around my neck last year, and the year before that, and always. And before you snicker at me, consider: what do you suppose I see looking back at you?

The problem, and the possibility, according to the apostle, is location, location, location. Where are you? And where am I? Where do we meet each other? What is our matrix, the framework and ground of our being, hoping, fearing, thinking, doing, relating? Here is the only matrix, the only location, that will make a difference: being en Christo, “in Christ.” If I be there, in Christ, then: kaine ktisis—new creation!

The English translations smooth it out, add words to turn this exclamation into a proposition. “If anyone be in Christ, he/she/they—that person—is a new creation.” Well, sure, that person becomes, in Christ, a new creation, a restoration and actualization of all the potentiality originally given by the Maker but lost through our forgetfulness, neglect, and rebellion. Yes, that. But this is too limiting! The apostle does not say *that person is* a new creation. The apostle shouts the predicate without limiting it to an explicit subject. “New creation!” The person in Christ is a renewed creature—for whom the whole cosmos is new! The sky is a different color! The planet is racing along a new trajectory. All values are transvalued. The powers and principalities are relativized and thus overthrown. The constraints that limited are loosened, the habits that enslaved are broken, the relationships that were broken are healed, the sin—as good a label as we have for ta archaia, the old things and patterns!—is left behind. The archaia have passed away. The kaina—newnesses—have come into being.

Anyone who has read Paul’s letters attentively knows that he is neither fool nor huckster. He does not pretend or fake it or permit anyone else to do so. He trades in already/not yet. The newness is real! It is more real than the traces, dregs, and clinging dirt and mud of the old. But the process of living into the new—though the new is real—is . . . a process. It is the project of our new life together, in community, in Christ. It is a matter walking a walk—a politeia, as the apostle says elsewhere. The polis (Greek) or civitas (Latin) within which I live through my days is the city of God as superimposed over, or coexisting in the same space in a different, higher dimension than, the city of humankind. This is why I do not exist as a person without politics (a creature without politics could be animal, vegetable, or mineral but not human); rather, I participate in this earthly city as one whose citizenship in heaven means not opting out of this world but living out a polity (politeia) that aims to transform the mundane politics all around me.

Happy New Year? Please, yes, let this artificial “new year” be a temporal frame within which the real new takes deeper root in me, transforms me more thoroughly, drives out the old more radically and thoroughly. But let each month of this year, each day of each month, each minute of each day, be a moment in which: new creation! —because I am in the right location, the right Petri dish, the right reaction vessel, rightly oriented in the right matrix: en Christo, in the Anointed One, in the Word made flesh, in the Crucified and Resurrected, in the God-Human.

I wish you a happy new year, sure.

But what I pray for you, and for myself, is: NEW CREATION!


(Originally posted on Facebook.)

* For Paul on Christan politeia:

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