The New Man in Christ
“If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” 2 Corinthians 5:17
In Jesus Christ, all things have become new. What does it mean that “all things have become new” and that each one of us have become a “new creation?”
CS Lewis, in his book Mere Christianity, states that, "To become new men means losing what we now call 'ourselves.' Out of our selves, into Christ, we must go… the Christian life is simply a process of having your natural self changed into a Christ self… One's most private wishes, one's point of view, are the things that have to be changed.”
Our natural self changed into a Christ-self. We invite Jesus Christ to enter our lives and to be formed in us, and thus, become mirrors of Christ. We become little “Christs” in the world around us. We fulfill the potential that He has placed in each one of us when He created us in His likeness. Of course, such change implies something radical happening in us; it demands us to crucify our own ego, our egocentric ways and live according to Christ. And such change continues throughout our life, it becomes life-long transformation. This new life in Christ may have what seems to be a sudden, obvious beginning, yet it continues changing us each and every day, transforming us more and more into the likeness of Christ until our dying days.
Well, in today’s Gospel story, we see an example of such radical change in the story of Zacchaeus the tax-collector. In the eyes of his Jewish neighbors, Zacchaeus was a good-for-nothing thief and traitor, a despised man. As the chief tax-collector for the Romans in the region of Jericho, Zacchaeus had become very rich. This most likely meant that he pocketed a good portion of his collections for himself, as he collected the taxes for the Romans, who oppressed the Jews. Obviously, Zacchaeus would be considered a traitor to his own people. The Jews despised tax-collectors to such a degree that they placed them in the same category as robbers and murderers, and all three were forbidden to enter into the Jewish house of worship.
In the person of Zacchaeus we get a strong sense of how radical it can be when someone allows Christ to enter their lives and begin the process of making someone new! This rich tax collector, who had cheated so many people, listened to the words of Jesus, accepted the Lord’s desire to come to his house, and then allowed Christ’s Spirit to turn his world upside down. To the amazement and chagrin of the crowd, Jesus chooses to go to the house of Zacchaeus, yet after this decision of Christ to enter his house, we see the beginnings of a radical change! Zacchaeus proclaims that he will give half his wealth away to the poor, and will even repay anyone whom he has cheated four times what he took from them!
Wow! If we want to see what a new life in Christ means, what this new creation does to a person, look at the example of Zacchaeus! Can any of us imagine giving away HALF of what we possess to the poor, and if we became rich by cheating people, by then giving back not only what we took from others, but repaying them FOUR FOLD! The new life in Christ doesn’t simply mean saying nice words and professing an intellectual belief in Christ, but it implies a radical change of heart and change of living! It means becoming Christ-centered as opposed to self-centered.
Becoming a new creation in Christ means to life under God’s reign and take on the “mind of Christ” by allowing the Holy Spirit to inspire, empower and direct their lives. Through this new direction, our life becomes full of meaning and purpose, full of grace and love, full of mercy and peace – a life filled with God’s presence at all times.
Becoming a new creation means living according to God’s will. This entails putting off our old, fallen, corrupt nature and ways of living. In the case of Zaachaeus, this meant leaving his ill-gotten wealth and way of life and following a new path. Our Church tradition says that Zacchaeus became the first bishop of Caesarea. Imagine, going from being a wealth, corrupt tax-collector to becoming a leader of a persecuted Church. For many of the first bishops and leaders of the apostolic Church, this meant persecution and ultimate martyrdom. Yet, Zacchaeus willingly accepted this risk because he was a new person, an imitator of Christ and thus a person willing to follow the same path of Jesus. Zacchaeus left a life of comfort and wealth for a path of danger and persecution, but all for a greater purpose. He now lived for Jesus Christ, not for himself!
As we reflect on the life of Zacchaeus, we have to ask ourselves if we have allowed Christ to make each one of us a new creation. Have we allowed Christ to be formed in us, the mind of Christ to be central in our own worldview, and have we adopted a Christ-centered as opposed to self-centered spirit? Let us all put aside our old nature, and put on the new.
“If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”