All for Christ

 1 Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. For me to write the same things to you is not tedious, but for you it is safe.
2 Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the mutilation! 3 For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh, 4 though I also might have confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: 5 circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; 6 concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.
7 But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. 8 Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; 10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, 11 if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.

Pressing Toward the Goal

12 Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. 13 Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, 14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
15 Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you. 16 Nevertheless, to the degree that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind.

 Reflections:

 1)      From N.T. Wright: Paul names various credits which once gave him reason to trust in the flesh (vv. 4-6). The main thing Paul meant by the flesh here (and often in Galatians and Romans) is the pride of physical descent cherished by Jews. As this passage makes clear, he knew all about it from the inside. This had been his pride too. If you emphasized the “flesh” and your identity “according to the flesh,” as he himself had done in his pre-Christian days, then instead of stressing something that made you different from the pagan world around, you were instead stressing that which you had in common with them. You were setting up your Judaism as just another ethnic, geographical, religious and cultural grouping, along with all the other ones in the world.

2)      Orthodox from traditional ethnic backgrounds often see their Orthodoxy in terms of their ethnicity (I am Orthodox because I am Greek/Russian/Albanian/Serbian, etc.) and so take the actual content of the faith for granted. People not of traditional Orthodox ethnic backgrounds who enter the Church later in life often react against this position by de-emphasizing the importance of culture altogether, not realizing that they also bring a culture to the faith. Have you ever fallen into one of these categories? Have you prided yourself on your ethnicity and family connections, or on the lack of these things, making ethnicity or the lack of ethnicity an idol in the place of God? It is important to remember that Faith is always incarnate in people and people always have a culture; Faith is not something separate from our lives, but something that informs and directs our lives. The trouble comes when we think that because we are of certain ethnicity, or because we are not of a certain ethnicity, we are saved. How can we live the proper relationship of faith and culture in our Parish?

3)      Do we count “all things as loss” in order to obtain the excellent knowledge of Christ? We cannot count Christ and some other things as gain. This would mean that Faith in our Lord, in his death and resurrection is simply one of the many compartments of our lives, something we can put on for Sunday morning, and take off again when we get home from Church. Is the excellent knowledge of Christ the one thing needful in our lives? Do we even care if we know Christ, or maybe we have only heard about him from others. Would we be willing to give up everything to have Christ? Or would we be content to give up Christ in order to hold on to other aspects of our lives?

4)      Verse 12 should be sufficient to disprove any idea of an instantaneous moment of salvation. The Christian life is not a one moment “accepting Jesus as my Lord and Savior” and then sitting back being saved. It is a journey and a struggle, with the prize which we can see and taste in the Liturgy, the Banquet of the Kingdom, but which we strive for throughout our lives. Are we still striving? Does the prize mean enough to us to strive for it? We strive for all sorts of goals, at work, in our families, in our social groups, in the Church. Have these goals distracted us from the real and only goal of our lives, the life of the resurrection?

Advertisements