Paul’s spirituality and a cross-shaped Christian life (wisdom from Michael Gorman)

How does crucified Christ and risen Lord shape our lives? How do we understand the apostle Paul’s spirituality in relation to our daily life? These are important questions for every follower of Jesus.

Here are some excerpts from an article written by Prof Michael Gorman, which help to answer the above questions.

Cruciformity is the spiritual-moral dimension of the theology of the death of Jesus by crucifixion found in Paul, in the rest of the New Testament, and throughout much of the Christian tradition. With respect to Paul, at least, this conformity to the crucified Messiah is not an abstract moral principle but a spiritual. Or even mystical, reality. This mystical reality is rooted, paradoxically, in a profoundly this-worldly reality (Jesus’ crucifixion) and produces, no less paradoxically, a variety of very this-worldly results. (p. 66)

For Paul, Jesus is the crucified Messiah whom God raised from the dead, vindicating him as Messiah, validating his path of lifelong, self-giving, faithful obedience that led to the cross, and establishing him as the Lord of all who shares in the divine name, glory, and worship. As the resurrected, glorified, and living Lord, Jesus remains the crucified Messiah. (p. 66)

Cruciformity, then is cross-shaped existence in Jesus the Messiah. It is letting the cross of the crucified Messiah be the shape, as well as the source, of life in him. It is participating in and embodying the cross. Paul himself might put all this together this way (a paraphrase of Gal 2:19-20): “It is no longer I or we who live our own lives, but it is God’s crucified and resurrected Messiah who lives in me and in us by his Spirit, empowering us to embody his kind of faithfulness and love.” Because of the relational quality of this reality, we must be careful (as others have said) not to focus on “the cross” per se but  on “the crucified.” Further, although Paul can use the language of imitation (e.g., 1 Cor 11:1), we must distinguish this Pauline spirituality from a simple ethic of imitation Christi, since Paul’s focus is on the activity of the living, indwelling Messiah, which is at the same time the work of God’s indwelling Spirit. (p. 67)

As we will now see, the events that are repeated are constituted by the narrative of Christ’s self-giving faith and love that were quintessentially expressed in his (incarnation and) death on the cross. Crucifiormity is, therefore, a narrative spirituality, a spirituality that tells a story, the story of Christi crucified. (p. 67)

Source: Michael J. Gorman, “Paul and the Cruciform Way of God in Christ,” Journal of Moral Theology, Vol. 2, No. 1 (2013): 64-83. (The journal article can be accessed here and here.)

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