I have been doing some teaching at a local university, primarily to international students, and in that process, have found myself spending a lot of time explaining English prepositions. A friend of mine says, “If you’ve mastered prepositions, you’ve mastered English.” That’s because the rules governing which preposition we use and when are virtually nonsensical.
If you’re inside you stand in the corner; if you’re outside you stand on the corner. The bus is around the corner.
“I’m sitting on the bus.” Are you? Get down. That’s dangerous.
Martin Luther, in trying to describe the presence of God in the eucharist in a way that was sufficiently un-Catholic called it “in, with, and under” the bread and wine. I’ve parsed the German of that sentence, and I still have no idea what he means.
But it occurs to be that a life lived well is all about the prepositions. If you get the prepositions wrong, you’re going to get life wrong. Most church-goers say they believe “in” Jesus. By this, they mean a consent to the doctrine of his existence. That creed is, according to the Bible, meaningless and irrelevant (James 2:19).
“In” is not the critical preposition. A life lived well is a life lived from Jesus and for Jesus. Belief in, as it is usually used, is just an acknowledgement of present realities. What matters is that we understand the origin of our present reality and then our destination. If we come from Jesus, we do not just know he is real; we make him the foundation, the cause, and the source of who we are. If we live for Jesus, it means our life’s ultimate goal, its telos and destination, are to honor him. We have an initial design and an ultimate purpose – from and for.
The existence of a bus does not tell you who you are greeting at the station or where you might headed yourself. You can believe in the bus, ineffectually. But to know where the bus came from and where it is going are the only matters of consequence.