Friday 25 January 2008

The Power of Love

Today’s the Conversion of St Paul — a man knocked off his horse and blinded by the power of Grace. Some think Paul was a killjoy who turned the Church from a genial hippiefest into a hardball institution. That’s Tosh. It’s obvious from Paul’s letters to the communities he fathered that he was painfully aware of the limitations of institutional life and moralism. Paul says real faith is the end of religion and law, even good religion and law. In Christ God accomplishes personally something that religion and law, human processes, never could. This sets you free to live before God in a new state of radical liberation and joy. This process shows up not as conformity, but personal transformation. People who latch onto measurable religious norms and try to enforce them, however good their intentions, have missed the point and neuter real faith:
Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of those who mutilate the flesh! For it is we who are the circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and boast in Christ Jesus and have no confidence in the flesh—even though I, too, have reason for confidence in the flesh.

If anyone else has reason to be confident in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.

Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on towards the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.

It’s a radical subversive message. Religion that is based on externals (“forcing others to make fair showing in the flesh” in Paulspeak), that works from the outside in, is not enough. It needs redeeming as much as any other human activity. God is bigger than all that, and to be fully alive we need Christ and the Spirit who are the source of true life and freedom.

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...