Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him— a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all.Colossians 3:9-11
What does it mean for “Christ to be all, and in all?” N.T. Wright explains,
On the one hand, he is ‘all things' (or ‘the totality'): in other words, he, the pre-existent image of God, is the one whose being underlies all human nature of whatever category (Jew or Greek, civilized or uncivilized, high or low born)… On the other hand, he is ‘in all'—probably, ‘in all people.' Wherever one looks, one sees Christ. When an elderly person is ignored, Christ is ignored; where a lively teenager is snubbed, he is snubbed; where a poor or coloured person (or, for that matter, a rich or white one) is treated with contempt, the reproach falls on him. There must therefore be mutual welcome and respect within the people of God. Nobody must allow prejudices from their pre-Christian days to distort the new humanity which God has created in and through the New Man.Wright, N.T., Colossians and Philemon: An Introduction and Commentary. IVP. Print. 2020. P.145
Everywhere we look, we should try to see Christ. This will transform the way we treat others, how we view ourselves, and how the world works.
This is why Jesus said, in Matthew 25, that those who served the poor, imprisoned, sick, and hungry were in actuality serving Christ. In the same way, when we refuse to care for the poor, mistreat others, speak ill of someone, or even harm someone, we are, in fact, doing that to Christ.
Many preachers have encouraged their congregation to sing as if Jesus was sitting among them, and He is! Paul said of God, “There is…one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4:6).
If everyone believed this, what would our worship services be like? What would the world be like? Would there be any war? Any fighting? Any hunger?
If employees could see Christ in their employer, how would that enhance their work ethic? If employers saw Christ in their employees, would there even be talk of minimum wage? Or would the concept of wanting to pay someone as least as possible not even be a possibility?
How would husbands treat their wives? Or wives their husbands if they knew that Christ is all, and in all?
Do you see how revolutionary this concept is?
If everyone adopted this mindset. it would be like living on a New Heavens and a New Earth, or, as Paul said, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” ( 2 Corinthians 5:17, NIV)
Every homeless person you see, every passenger on an airplane, every person in the cars on the highway are all people in whom Christ dwells. If we pass by on the other side, like the Levite and Priest, we are abandoning Christ in the ditch because we are leaving behind a child of God.
Paul told a group of truth-seekers in Athens,
…that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we also are His children.' “Being then the children of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and thought of man.Acts 17:27–29
Christ calls on us to take on the form of a servant, and Paul encouraged the Philippians to regard others are more important than ourselves (Philippians 2:3-4). The selfish part of us says that if we do such a thing, we will be found empty. Imagine if Jesus had this attitude! But, if I do all I can to give my life, my care, my service to you, and you do the same, then what need will I ever have that won't be taken care of? And if I fail in my task or you fail in yours, isn't it God who supplies every good and perfect thing?
If we trust that Christ really is all, and in all, and we teach, or rather show others this truth, then what kind of world will we live in? Will food stamps be necessary, or would there be so many fields with their corners left unharvested that nobody would go hungry? Will health insurance even be a need, or would everyone be so thoughtful and so generous that every medical need will be supplied? Will homeless shelters exist, or would everyone join forces, donate materials, and contribute work-hours to construct enough homes for those that can't help themselves?
The earth has enough for everyone, and if someone somewhere isn't getting what they need, then it is because someone somewhere else is holding it up because they do not see Christ in their neighbor.
Note: Special thanks to Kevin Pendergrass in this article. Also thanks to a few authors who have written about or said similar things: N.T. Wright, Tom Holland, Rob Bell, Richard Rohr, and Walter Brueggemann, to name a few.