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Christ Rules the Universe

 

Question & Answer

 
Q: By Quinton

It is Written in The Message, Ephesians Chapter 1, that Christ rules the Universe, all of it, from galaxies to governments, no one exempt from His power, He has the final say on all things. I have been trying to reconcile this for two years, to understand if this is a metaphor or actual truth, what is your perception? With all I see and hear in our world, it is difficult to reconcile our reality and the Word.

A: By Rev. Jessica Shine
 
Hi Quinton, and thank you for your thoughtful questioning.

And also, I totally get it. There’s really not much encouraging right now that feels like this text could be true. In many ways it feels like a pipe dream or wishes for the distant future. So then…?

Well, let’s talk about “The Message”.  According to wikipedia, “The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language is a highly idiomatic translation of the Bible by Eugene H. Peterson and published in segments from 1993 to 2002. … The Message is a personal paraphrase of the Bible in English by Peterson from the original languages.”

Why is this important? Because Peterson was a lover of scripture and yet all interpretations have biases. However, The Message is not an interpretation of the text, it is a paraphrase. I’ll let you research the difference here as it is quite significant. The bottom line is that it’s most helpful to read Peterson’s paraphrase as one would a diary rather than a textbook or literal code book (see your states driver manual). An interpretation is relevant for a specific time, place, and location, as was the original text. When I’m studying scriptures a helpful exercise (for me) is to compare translations side by side. A few of my favorites are ASV, NASB, and TNIV. Although I have the luxury of having learned Biblical Greek and Hebrew and often refer to the original text (my preference), most people don’t have 3-4 years to learn these and their nuances, so we rely on a translation. A snapshot for a specific time.

With all that, how do we interpret this text in a helpful way? Particularly since most of us don’t live with rulers or use this language? Well, did a ruler always get his or her way? No. Well, what was the point here? When we try to apply this literally we can run into speed bumps. However, in metaphor this becomes a bit simpler to understand and apply. In my opinion, one point of this text is that the author is trying to demonstrate how far reaching the Christs’ power was. Why? Because the author lived in a time when power demonstrated strength and authority, as well as legitimacy of a ruler. It’s what made you believable as a leader. Sometimes through sheer brute force or the ability to dominate a vast number of people.

Yet if we look to Jesus’ life, that doesn’t seem to fit a literal interpretation. So, how does he rule? With kindness and compassion. Fierceness, yes, but also Jesus leads within community. In other words, he can (and does) change his mind (see the story of the woman in Matt 15 and Mark 7). Jesus also includes people that the dominant power try to leave out, namely women and other people beyond Judaism. The ‘energy’ (vv20-23) is defined just a few sentences earlier as the energy we receive by communion and friendship with Christ. While it seems that the writer is asking us to believe the legitimacy of Christ to rule Everything, it’s clear from the context that where Christ is most influential (and most impactful to Everything) is actually through the Church (people not place). In other words, Christ is powerful enough to have control over Everything, yet he is most interested in you. In giving you strength, and in mutual relationship that creates freedom not oppression. Where communities and individuals are living like this, and setting each other free, that is where Christ is alive and well.

~ Rev. Jessica Shine

About the Author
Reverend Jessica Shine earned degrees in theology and divinity, but still hasn’t figured out how to walk on water. Despite this, she was ordained to ministry by the Seventh-day Adventist church and continues offering spiritual care as a clergy member of The CHI Interfaith Community (based in Berkeley, CA). With two decades of experience serving church communities, police officers, hospital staff, and teenagers, Shine has a passion for people and a skill for communicating in transformative ways. Her spirituality began in childhood, was influenced by Jimmy Swaggart and Mother Theresa, and continues in the Pacific Northwest where she resides on Kalapuya land.

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