English speakers and writers use the word “abide” and its kin far less than in past generations. Incidentally, the most common uses of this word provide a striking contrast in how we live. Remarkably enough, the word means “live.”
Yes, we may use the word occasionally in less common ways. Nostalgically and poetically we employ it when referring to a home as an abode or when it comes in handy for rhyming. It is also used with emphasis when we declare that we will not abide a certain behavior or decision. But these uses have dropped significantly over the last century.
The two most common uses of this somewhat antiquated word in our day present a striking contrast:
- We use the word to call people to abide by the rules. Similarly, consumers may be required to check a box on contract stating that they will abide by terms and conditions.
- Christians are called to abide in Jesus Christ. Because the concept is so prominent in the Bible, it remains common in our culture.
Seeking to create a better future, every person will live in one of those two ways. Either we try to abide by the rules (and force others to abide by the rules). Or, a person will abide in Jesus Christ. In biblical terms, each person seeks to live by law or by grace. Either a person tries to improve his lot in life by what he does, or he will rest in Jesus Christ.
Abide by the rules, or abide in Christ. What will it be for you?
Trying to keep the rules of other people or live up to their expectations will crush a person. How much harder to keep God’s law? Impossible! When abiding by rules becomes our guiding principle, we end up, at best, with legions of laws...and very cold hearts.
By contrast, what does it mean to abide in Christ? Jesus teaches us in John 15. In verse 6, Jesus says, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” We are to live in him, his words are to live in us, and we are to pray to him. We are to live in union with him, the living God, as we receive and rest in Christ alone for salvation. Exercising faith takes time; there is no other way.
Recently, I informally polled friends about times in life when they have felt the most a part of a group other than their family. You would not be surprised to hear their experiences. People remembered times they had been on sports teams together, rising early for practices as they reached for a common goal. They recalled times with their military unit, as they fought a common enemy with discipline. People reminisced about tight-knit groups in college that burned the midnight oil together. They listed mission teams with which they’d served others. They thought about work projects with fellow-employees. In each case, their spent hours with their mates, often living together, as they strove for a common goal. They felt most connected and really came alive only when they spent time with others.
That should teach us something of what is required if we are to abide in Christ. It will require time in his word and in prayer. It requires time for those things personally on a daily basis and it requires time as we exercise those same callings corporately with the church.
As we spend time in Christ, in his word, and in prayer, our lives are shaped by him organically. It requires exertion and discipline, but abiding in Christ is worth it. The more we live in him, the more we realize that our only hope is that he has lived for us. Then, we really live as we are united to him by faith and abide in Jesus.
Apart from that, we’re left with only one other option: abide by the rules.