Author Ava Pennington
Author Ava Pennington
When in Rome - When in Christ

When in Christ . . .


I watched a movie the other day where the dialogue included the phrase, “When in Rome….” If you’ve never heard that before, it’s short for “When in Rome, do as the Romans do,” referring to practicing the customs of the people around you.

How would a Christian apply this adage? Since we’re living in the world, we could “do as the world does.” Sadly some Christians do that. They’ve walked an aisle at church or said a particular prayer, profess to be a Christian, but nothing in their life changes. They’re still fitting into the world’s way of doing things. But our world is broken. Behavior that fits our dominant culture often contradicts the Bible’s instructions for how to live because this world is not our permanent home.

Another option is to “do as other Christians do.” But that isn’t always the answer, either. Even sincere Christ-followers will mess up again and again. When the apostle John wrote “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives” (1 John 1:9-10), he was writing to Christians. We’re still tempted by the world, our own sinful desires, and of course, the devil.

The apostle Paul encouraged the recipients of his letters to “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1), which leads us to our third and best option.

What if we adapted “When in Rome” to “When in Christ”? When in Christ, do what Christ did. What would happen if Christians followed that adage? Remember the acronym, WWJD (what would Jesus do)? But we can’t do what Jesus did in our own strength. Eventually, we’ll fail. We can only effectively do what Jesus did when we’re “in Christ.”

What does it mean to be “in Christ”? Ephesians 1:3-14 gives us a good description:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.

11 In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, 12 in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. 13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.

Did you catch the number of times “in Christ,” “in him,” or “in the One” was mentioned? Eight times in twelve verses! We:

    • are blessed with every spiritual blessing
    • are chosen before the creation of the world
    • are adopted in love
    • have redemption and forgiveness
    • are chosen according to His plans and purposes
    • have hope
    • are included through the message of salvation
    • are sealed

Forget “When in Rome.” Instead, what would happen if our behavior consistently reflected who we are “When in Christ”?

Let’s find out!


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  1. Nancy E. Head

    Great insights. When in Christ…. I love that! Thanks, Ava, for the words to ponder today!

  2. Sharon Johnson

    Needed this reminder today. Thanks, Ava!

  3. Melissa Henderson

    Yes, follow Christ and do what He would do. Amen.

  4. Yvonne Morgan

    What a great new phrase, When in Christ, do what Christ did. I try to live this way but now I have an additional way to remember. Thanks Ava.

  5. Melinda Viergever Inman

    When in Christ, do what Christ would do. O, that we would keep that in our minds rather than forgetting both realities. We are continually IN Christ. Therefore, we should choose to walk IN Jesus’ steps, TO DO what Jesus would do.

  6. Stephen De La Vega

    I love Paul’s letters. He cuts right to the chase and explains things with depth and authority as an Apostle of Jesus. We are so much because of the mercy and grace of God, and we are who He made us to be as a result. Praise God that He is helping us to become more and more like Jesus.

  7. Jessica Brodie

    This line clinches it: “Behavior that fits our dominant culture often contradicts the Bible’s instructions for how to live because this world is not our permanent home.” It’s definitely true we do this, but we absolutely should NOT. We are called to set our sights on heaven, called to follow the model Jesus gave us, NOT the world. Thanks for this excellent reminder.

  8. Karen Friday

    Ava, such a good analogy and powerful reminder. We are given “every spiritual blessing” to the praise and glory of the Father.

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