Living Vicariously through Christ


Your steadfast love is before my eyes, and I walk in your faithfulness. (Psalm 26:3)

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20, italics my translation)

We know what it means to live vicariously through others. Parents do this instinctively when they see their children succeed in athletics or academics. We imagine ourselves in their lives. We feel their joys. We take pride in their works. Now, when parents do this, it’s often accompanied by evil. We pressure the children to perform well so that we can enjoy it, vicariously. That’s bad. They can’t handle that pressure, and they shouldn’t have to do so.

But Jesus can handle the pressure. He came into the world in order to do so. All our hopes and dreams ride on him. Our eternal life depends on him. And we must live vicariously through him, or we will not live at all! This means more than merely considering him as a substitute for us. It means imagining his life as ours, and because of the Gospel, this is actually true! He is in us, and we in him. Because we are truly united to him by his Spirit, we may live vicariously through him!

So his own life is in us, it is ours. His joy is ours. It’s his own joy… and it is ours! His own love is ours, because his Spirit is in us. His very humanity in the presence of God—one with God—is ours. It’s an alien righteousness, an alien peace, an alien strength in the face of temptation, an alien trust in the good care of the Father. But, as we live vicariously through him, it really is all ours. Everything that is his is ours. His relationship with the Father is ours. His prayer is ours. His compassion and mercy are ours. His victory over death, his inheritance, his destiny is ours. It is more than just our imitation of him in his life—it’s actually him living in us and through us, and we living in him and through him.

We were given our imaginations, at least in significant part, to be able to imagine ourselves in him, and him in us. To imagine living vicariously through him in all the circumstances of life. To imagine the perfect human being, the firstborn of the dead, the faithful witness, the beginning of the New Creation, and to imagine that, in him, this is us.

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