New Blood

Posted on July 18, 2011


Blood is life.

It is a living force in our bodies. It is a river within us. Its very nature is to move. When it stagnates in our bodies it becomes a problem, swelling and bruising and pooling.

Blood is not exclusively ours, at least, it doesn’t have to be. In 1818, James Blundell performed the first successful blood transfusion in humans. Since then it has become regular practice to take blood out of one person and put it in another person. While not as simple as I am making it out to be, it is essentially, giving a part of your own life-force to another person so they may feel stronger, more energetic, and alive.

Caveat: I do not like actual blood. I don’t do well with needles so I don’t give blood. In 10th grade I had to watch a video (admission: it was a film-strip) that followed cameras through the human body and I had to put my head on my desk and hum quietly to stop myself from passing out. If you want me to leave a room, any of the following words will work: hemorrhage, aneurism, fibrillation, cath-pump, tracheotomy, placenta, capillary. This list is by no means exhaustive.

But even though blood makes me uncomfortable, I cannot ignore it’s power. I am my blood and my blood is me. It is not just a part of me like an arm, an appendix, even a lung or a kidney, of which I could do without. Without blood I am not. I cease to be.
Thinking about blood transfusion helps me understand what it means to be united with Christ. I love the passage of Ephesians 2 that says:

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (that done in the body by the hands of men)— remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.

I like theology of union with Christ, but I never fully embraced it, because I still wanted to be me. I have no desire to be subsumed in Christ. I want to retain my own sense of humor, thoughts, interests, skills, loves, and even mistakes. I do not believe that all Christians are meant to be alike, even in Christ. I do not believe that when we get to heaven we will suddenly cease be who we are and instead change into something bland and boring. I don’t think we will suddenly all laugh at the same jokes or agree about what to order on our pizzas.

But understanding salvation as a divine transfusion moves me to my core.

My blood is who I am. I am nothing without my blood. It drives me and sustains me. If my blood is weak, then I am weak. If my blood is rich and strong, then I am these things. If my blood has been replaced with the blood of the lamb, then I am still myself in all that makes me unique, but I am also no longer me.

As we empty ourselves, we are filled with the blood of Christ, blood that ran from his hands, his feet, his side. But not blood that is cold and congealed; but Resurrection blood: blood that is full of life, that pumps through us, bring health, energy, and vitality.

When we drink his blood in Communion, we receive a transfusion of life and we remember that Christ’s blood flows through us. Our weakness, our anemia, is an opportunity for a transfusion: a moment to accept his support and strength. The nails that held him to the cross might as well have been needles of transfusion. The blood he poured out for us was not dashed upon the ground, rather, it flows within us.

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