We should maintain that if an interpretation of any word in any religion leads to disharmony and does not positively further the welfare of the many, then such an interpretation is to be regarded as wrong; that is, against the will of God, or as the working of Satan or Mara.

Buddhadasa Bikkhu, a Thai Buddhist Monk

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Christian Non-self

Yesterday, I shared with you the thought that the Apostle Paul in Galatians 2:15-21 didn't go far enough in working out his profound spiritual insight that we are not reconciled with God by keeping the Law.  He was still seeking a legal state, justification, but proposes a non-legal remedy, faith.  The problem is that faith can too easily be turned back into a work of the Law because at some level we have to do something to be justified.  We have to believe, which is too often taken as the same thing as faith.

The concern for justification, thus, can obscure the most important consequence of Paul's insight, namely "For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." (2:19-20, NRSV, italics added)  If we live in faith, it is no longer "us" who lives at all but Christ who lives in us.  This does not seem to be a kind of self-nullification, however.  It is self-fulfillment, which when achieved merges "us" with the One who created us.  In an almost Buddhist way, "we" become a non-self and the "space" formerly occupied by our unfaithful "self" is now occupied by that One, by Christ.

In our walk of faith, we discover that I Alone is empty of meaning and purpose, that I Together is better but still filled with hurt, and that Not I But Thee is the surest way to a life of meaning and purpose.  As Paul says, "It is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me."  For all but a few, that is a goal and a possibility more than a reality, but it is the goal or a path on which we  seek to walk in faith.  Amen