Centuries before Charles Darwin boarded the Beagle, Paul of Tarsus knew about evolution; not the kind Darwin discovered in the Galapagos Islands, but the type of evolution with which every Christian has always been familiar.
Being a disciple of Jesus isn't a static experience. It's something which constantly changes and evolves. Those who are committed to imitate Jesus are continually on the road to becoming Jesus; not the historical Jesus, but the risen Jesus. Our goal is to evolve into the same new creation which he himself became on Easter Sunday morning.
Many of us continue to confuse resurrection with resuscitation. Instead of believing in the resurrected Jesus, we believe in the resuscitated Jesus. In resuscitation, we're simply brought back to life after being clinically dead. In those instances, we're still the same basic person we were before we died. If we died a woman, we're resuscitated as a woman; if we died a Democrat, we're resuscitated as a Democrat. We still like the same food, and have the same physical characteristics we possessed before death. Technically Jesus didn't raise Jarius' daughter, the widow of Nain's son and his friend Lazarus from the dead; he resuscitated them. The three not only came back to life as they were before their deaths, they all eventually died again.
When one is raised from the dead, one never dies again. Death isn't part of a new creation's makeup. Paul pointedly described such a new creation in Galatians 3. Once raised, someone is just as much a free person as a slave, as much a Gentile as a Jew, and as much a woman as a man. The limits which restricted us before death are obliterated in resurrection.
In today's Philippians pericope, Paul is speaking to people who have risen with Jesus and have committed themselves to evolve into a new creation. I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it.... “My prayer is that your love may increase ever more and more in knowledge and every kind of perception, to discern what is of value, so that you may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus the Christ."
Those who are evolving on those levels look at things from a completely different perspective. When, for instance, they hear the words of Baruch reflecting on the eventual return of all "diaspora" Jews to Jerusalem, they hear about their own call to bring "the peace of justice" to the whole earth. And when they reflect on the beginning of the Baptizer's ministry they logically look at it as preceding and prefiguring Jesus' own "baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins;" a baptism which had removed their sins by the simple fact it had transformed them into new creations. They no longer were the people who had committed those sins. Yet they also realized that the transformation which forgave their sins and turned them into peacemakers was an ongoing process.
When the greatest theological proponent of evolution, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, was asked when he expected Jesus to return in the Parousia, he simply answered, "When all of us eventually become one in Christ." And just how long did he expect that process to take? "At least a million years!"
Of course, if we who are the new creations still haven't started to imitate the risen Jesus by becoming one with those around us, we'll have to add a couple of years to that million. It's up to us when Jesus returns, because it's up to us to become other Christs.