Flesh and Spirit: Romans 8.1-11

OK, a little straight-out theology. God is Love. God is Mother, Heavenly Lover, source of all Being: “Father.” God's love is infinite and eternal. When God's love exists as pure energy we call it “Spirit.” When God's love is embodied, made finite and mortal, we call it “Christ.” (Remember energy and matter are interchangeable. E=mc2.) Christ is not an individual but all of God's embodied love, which is all of Creation: it's all God's embodiment of love, God's energy appearing as matter, Word made flesh.

Jesus fully embodied the Christ of God. He was not just Jesus of Nazareth, he was Jesus of Christ. He was Christ appearing as Jesus. We too are finite instances of the infinite love of God, just as Jesus was. God's spirit, which we see in him, is in all of us.

We don't naturally trust that. We succumb to the illusion that our “self” is this little individual enclosed in our physical body (Paul says “the flesh”). We are not so limited: we are actually part of God, members of the cosmos, instances of the embodiment of God's eternal and infinite love. Our “self” is actually part of Christ. We are the Body of Christ, and individually members of it.

Our ego is pretty sure we have to protect our little self and prove we deserve for God to approve of us, and earn our place in the world. (This is “sin.”) Our ego sees righteousness as being right, being good enough. But we are part of God; there is no such thing as being “good enough” or not. God gives us the righteousness of belonging to God. This grace sets us free from the hopeless, never-ending battle of trying to be good enough. We can let God's goodness be our goodness: our goodness is our Godness. In this way God gives us “righteousness” that we can't achieve on our own.

Christ appearing as Jesus comes to show us this. Christ Jesus occupies our sin: Christ occupies our distrust and alienation from God, and endures our judgment and suffering. In occupying our sin, God does not condemn us, but condemns and disarms our sin: God overcomes our distance from God by becoming the gap between us. Even though Jesus becomes our sin God still loves him, not because he is “good enough,” but because God is love, and because Jesus is God's.

Christ Jesus occupies our whole life, even our death. And God raises Jesus from the dead because the eternal Spirit that is God is in him. And that same Spirit that was in Jesus is in us. Since God's spirit is in us, that spirit also gives life to us and even raises us from the dead just like Jesus.

So: we let go of our little doomed flesh-contained “selves” (“deny yourselves”) and live in the Spirit, as part of the whole infinite Christ of God. We live “in Christ.” To set our minds on the flesh is to enslave ourselves to the survival of our egos, and restrict ourselves to the puny power of our fears and desires. This will always kill us. But to live in the Spirit is to allow God's infinite power to live in us and give us life that is eternal. God's power becomes our power. It's the power to love as Jesus loved. It changes our lives, which changes the world.

This is what I have in mind when I read Romans 8.1-11:

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: by sending God's own Beloved in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin, God condemned sin in the flesh, so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law—indeed it cannot, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
 
But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to God. But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, God who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through God's Spirit that dwells in you.



                           —July 11, 2017