Christ in Paul’s Eyes
The entire biblical revelation is gradually developing a very different consciousness, a recreated self, and eventually a full “identity transplant” or identity realization, as we see in both Jesus and Paul. As Paul writes, “I live no longer, not I, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20). (Sunday)
After transformation, we don’t look out at reality as if it is hidden in the distance. We look out from reality! Our life is participating in God’s Life. We are living in Christ. (Monday)
Paul took incarnationalism to its universal and logical conclusions. We see that in his bold exclamation: “There is only Christ. He is everything and he is in everything” (Colossians 3:11). (Tuesday)
All of us, without exception, are living inside of a cosmic identity, already in place, that is drawing and guiding us forward. We are all en Cristo, willingly or unwillingly, happily or unhappily, consciously or unconsciously. (Wednesday)
I have never been separate from God, nor can I be, except in my mind. I would love for you to bring this realization to loving consciousness! (Thursday)
Only with a notion of the Preexisting Christ can we recover where this Jesus was “coming from” and where he is leading us—which is precisely into the “bosom of the Trinity” (see John 1:18). “I shall return to take you with me, so that where I am you also may be” (John 14:3), the Christ has promised. (Friday)
Paul offers a theological and ontological foundation for human dignity and human flourishing that is inherent, universal, and indestructible by any evaluation of race, religion, gender, sexuality, nationality, class, education, or social position. He does this at a time when perhaps four out of five people were slaves, women were considered the property of men, temple prostitution was a form of worship, and oppression and wholesale injustice toward the poor and the outsider were the norm. Into this corrupt and corrupting empire Paul shouts, “One and the same Spirit was given to us all to drink!” (1 Corinthians 12:13). Paul levels the playing field: “You, all of you, are sons and daughters of God, now clothed in Christ, where there is no distinction between male or female, Greek or Jew, slave or free, but all of you are one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:26-28). “You are the very temple of God” (1 Corinthians 3:16-17).
Paul’s teaching on sexuality (e.g., 2 Corinthians 6:14-18) isn’t really the moralistic message many of us were given. He’s just saying that our body has dignity, so respect it. He invites us to give the ego appropriate and much needed boundaries. Unfortunately, this morphed into guilt-based boundaries and prohibitions, which seems to happen in most early-stage religion, since humans carry their natural shame in their bodies. We do not see this in either Jesus or Paul, even though we have projected it onto them.
We have been conditioned to focus on the negative in ourselves and others. Think of a negative phrase you have said aloud or thought to yourself that stems from a sense of shame rather than your inherent dignity.
Turn it upside down and say, in first person, present tense, an affirmation of your God-given value. For example:
I am alone. . . . I am indwelled by God’s presence.
I am unlovable. . . . I am infinitely loved.
I don’t have enough. . . . I have everything I need.
I am stupid. . . . I have the mind of Christ.
I am worthless. . . . I am precious in God’s eyes, I am honored, and God loves me.
Repeat the positive statement aloud, slowly, with intention and trust, several times. Then rest silently in the awareness that you are already and forever, without any effort or achievement on your part, a beloved child of God.
Adapted from Richard Rohr, an unpublished talk, February 2015 at the Center for Action and Contemplation; and
A Spring Within Us: A Book of Daily Meditations (CAC Publications: 2016), 110-111.
For Further Study:
Richard Rohr, Great Themes of Paul: Life as Participation (Franciscan Media: 2002, 2012), CD
Richard Rohr, In the Footsteps of St. Paul (Franciscan Media: 2015), CD
Richard Rohr, Jesus as Liberator/Paul as Liberator (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2009), MP3 download
Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ: How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope For, and Believe (Convergent: 2019)