'...anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!' (NLT)The reality of the new creation - our new identity and new nature in Christ (as a present anticipation of 'all things made new' of the future age to come) - is a vitally important truth that I receive and celebrate with gratitude. The 'Yes, but...' of this post's title refers to the understanding and outworking of that truth in the Christian life and especially as it relates to responding to the experience of our own and others' brokenness and mess in our internal worlds.
The expression of faith that I learned from early on in my Christian life included the simplistic reading of this passage that meant because 'the old has gone and the new has come' my past, and any pain and damage associated with it, was dealt with and I could forget it. It was gone. It came down to 'easy believism' (just have faith, brother...) or, if there was anything that seemed to be hanging on, just a matter of some kind of spiritual, high octane deliverance ministry that dealt with it once and for all. Of course, when it didn't happen as was expected people could be left feeling guilty for their lack of faith and some of us could contribute to their guilt by the insensitive things we said. And so for many the only solution was to push things down beneath the surface, rationalise it, find something to 'medicate' the pain and/or just pretend and avoid openness and transparency so you could get on with life. All that happens of course is that the pain and the damage is deflected and will come out somewhere and someway eventually often with tragic and even more damaging consequences. In some cases, it can cause or exacerbate serious mental illness.
I am grateful to Ian McNaught for anticipating this post with his comment on my previous post in which he pointed me to an article by Ted Haggard who 'fell' from his position and ministry as a high profile Christian leader in 2006, partly perhaps because he had been taught this take on the new creation truth, and his damage was deflected into a series of actions that led to his downfall in a Christian world that really didn't know how to deal with damage in Christians who are 'supposed to be' new creations. I find the article really moving, helpful, passionate, compassionate and insightful. It not only deals with this issue but with how the church handles fallen leaders, and responds to the issue of mental illness among Christians, in the light of another recent high profile suicide by a Christian leader. I would also highly recommend a series of posts by Christian leader, blogger and psychiatrist Adrian Warnock, posted earlier this year in the light of the tragic suicide of Rick Warren's son, Matthew (it's worth pointing out that the Warrens' had a far healthier approach to understanding new creation truth and how to respond to mental illness; but the wider evangelical and charismatic church doesn't always).
In my next post I want to begin to explore a better approach to this 2 Cor.5:17 text and the wonderful truth it contains while still leaving space for us to deal better with brokenness.