By Curtis Shelburne: CNJ Religion Columnist
Christian scholar and writer D. Elton Trueblood once wrote, “The major danger of our contemporary religion … is that it makes small what ought to be large.”
Lest we make small what Christ meant to be exceedingly large in scope, perhaps we do well from time to time to remind ourselves that we Christians are part of an amazingly large institution—the Body of Christ, the Church. Vast almost beyond belief, it is so large and far-reaching that it stretches far beyond this little time-bound corner of reality that we call “the present” and in blind pride too often suppose to be the whole show.
The writer of Hebrews points to what he calls “a great cloud of witnesses” who attest to the faithfulness of God and the wisdom of placing our trust in Him. Read Hebrews 11 and you will find that the witnesses to whom the writer refers are great heroes of faith who, even as he wrote, were long since dead. He seems to think that death has stopped neither their existence nor their witnessing.
I like very much the lines I rediscovered the other day in one of C. S. Lewis’ children’s books (which adults can read to great benefit). A boy named Eustace stands face to face with a friend who had died earlier in the story. No mistake, he was dead, a fact that immediately captures Eustace’s attention.
“Hasn’t he—er—died?” Eustace asks the great Lion who represents Christ.
“‘Yes,’ said the Lion in a very quiet voice, almost as if he were laughing, ‘he has died. Most people have, you know. Even I have. There are very few who haven’t.’”
By far, the greater part of the Church is made up of our brothers and sisters in Christ from across the centuries right up to the present who have already died physically but who are still very much alive to God. Only near-sighted human arrogance would lead us to believe that this world is all there is to reality. Death in no way diminishes the borders of Christ’s Church, a very large institution indeed that deserves a large place in our lives as we bow in gratitude before the Au