“You, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven.” Colossians 1:21-23
Revolution in France began in 1787. Madame Guillotine bloodied the streets of Paris and soon, a young Napoleon ascended military ranks. His strategies were encyclopedic and victories epic; so was the propaganda he promoted. He circulated exaggerated reports from the battlefield and posed for paintings that portrayed him as charismatic and clairvoyant. Napoleon crowned himself emperor, conquered Europe and northern Africa, and dodged a coalition of allied forces until his ultimate defeat at Waterloo and imprisonment in 1815.
TYRANNIZING THE BEAUTIFUL
We know a more insidious being who prances about as a charlatan, portrays himself as victorious, and uses propaganda to aid in the recruitment and maintenance of soldiers for his army. His name is Satan. After enlistment, members of his army experience shaming, agitation, and dehumanization, and they cannot recognize the toll the vandalism of shalom takes on them. His slander of God and skewing of the gospel often sounds like this:
“Be your own god. Assert yourself,” he whispers. We bite. “Humans are mere animals. Gratify yourself,” he winks. We indulge. “Material things are evil; immaterial things are good. Souls are good, but imprisoned in bad bodies. Escape yourself,” he whispers. We restrict.
Not until God rescues us from this tyranny can we understand its devastation. With the Spirit indwelling us and working to rehumanize us, we no longer live enslaved to the propaganda of Satan. The Spirit brings “human beings into right proportion, rightly arranging them both within themselves and in relation to the world around them. Moreover, the Spirit’s recreative work takes the form of following a pattern—that of Jesus Christ—and then of creatively reimaging that pattern in new and varied settings. We become, as Paul says, God’s poiema— ‘his masterpiece’ (Ephesians 2:10).
With this understanding, Christians neither worship our “earthy parts” and indulge, nor bemoan them and restrict. Instead, we embrace the Beauty of our earthiness. Christianity confirms that sin infiltrates every area of the soul and body, resulting in total depravity, while also asserting that salvation saturates every area of the soul and body, resulting in righteousness. As we experience the tension created by this Truth, the Spirit guides our gaze to Christ, the sinless One who took on sin, the divine One who took on skin.
In Christ we see continuity between humankind and the divine. In His incarnation, God takes on human flesh. In His resurrection, God remains in human flesh (Luke 24:39). In His ascension, God returns to the heavens in glorified human flesh (Acts 1:9–11). Christ never worships or bemoans His humanity. He embraces it. Yet, Christ also testifies to the discontinuity between humankind and the divine. His crucifixion confirms that humanity cannot enter the new world depraved. So, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” and enter in (2 Corinthians 5:21)
To craft his propaganda, Satan distorts the truth of God’s words. But truth counteracts propaganda, so that:
• Freedom flows from submission to God rather than assertion of self as god. (Galatians 5:13)
• We can indulge in all that God calls “good.” (Colossians 2:16–23)
• We do restrict from all that God prohibits. (Galatians 5:19–23)