When the Cards All Fold
Imagine Dragons begins their song “Demons” by painting the scene of a hopeless man in the cold, watching the cards fold. The only saints he can see are made of gold rather than flesh and bone. All that is good is extinguished from his life and he can turn nowhere for help because the problem lies with the demons inside…
But what if the saints were clothed in sinews and skin? What if they had eyes of gold, or even brown, blue, green and every hue between? What if the saints reached out their hands to this flailing man, lost in the sea of deepest darkness?
What if you were that saint?
Perhaps you think being a saint sounds farfetched, or too Catholic (or Orthodox), or more holy than you could be. You might be thinking of that egregious line bandied about in many Christians circles, “I’m just a sinner, saved by grace!” Let us set the record straight here and now: if you have been “saved by grace”—redeemed by Christ—you are no longer a sinner, but a saint.
The Apostle Paul makes this clear: “We know that our old self was crucified with Him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin.”1 We are no longer enslaved by sin, no longer defined by sin. We cannot be both sinners and saints, for those are mutually exclusive natures. Not that saints cannot sin, we all live under the curse of the Fall and often allow it to come into our lives. However, this means we are changed into a new creature now, in this life. We are transformed into hagios—a most holy thing, a saint—because the Spirit of God has made us His dwelling place. Like the Holy of Holies in the temple, our frail flesh is made the house of God.
“So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.”2 We are being made into that holy temple, brick by brick, believer by believer, with Christ as our foundation and cornerstone—by Christ in us.
Christ in us is a now-and-not-yet reality. We are saints now—but we are still being sanctified, refined into the perfected likeness of Jesus. Put another way, “God came down and lived in this world as a man. He showed us how to live in this world, subject to its vicissitudes and necessities, that we might be changed, not into angels or storybook princesses, not wafted into another world, but changed into saints in this world.”3
Do you realise the implications of this? It means that we are in the company of saints—those in history past to the ones yet to come. Those who have come before inspire—breathe life into—us to be like Christ. They were ordinary men and women who had struggles, thorns in the flesh, selfishness to overcome, sorrow, and loss, yet they kept their eyes on the LORD. They chose to lay not only all their sins but also their good works at the foot of the Cross to be sacrificed.
We have been made saints, holy ones, with the great company of witnesses. We are not gilded and in the grave, we are able to reach out a corporeal hand to those in need, sorrow, or despair. As the dwelling place of God we carry Christ to the world, one person at a time. Gerard Manley Hopkins eloquently penned it thus:
I say móre: the just man justices;
Keeps grace: thát keeps all his goings graces;
Acts in God’s eye what in God’s eye he is —
Chríst—for Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
To the Father through the features of men’s faces.4