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Christian Spirituality (1 Corinthians 1:18-25)

by T.V. Philip

T. V. Philip, born in India and a lay member of the Mar Thoma Church, has worked and taught in India, Europe, USA and Australia. He is a church historian, and a former Professor at the United Theological College, Bangalore, India. The following appeared in The Kingdom of God is Like This, by T.V. Philip, jointly published by the Indian Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge and Christava Sahitya Samithy (CSS), Cross Junction, M.C. Road, Tiruvalla-689 101, Kerela, India. The material was prepared for Religion Online by Ted & Winnie Brock.


1 Corinthians 1:18-25:

For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who being saved it is the power of God.

The opposite of the love of God is the love of self. For Asian theologians in general, what is absolute about Jesus is not to be found in titles such as son of God, Messiah or Lord, but in the liberation which Jesus communicates in his person and in his teachings -- the liberation from self-centredness. In Jesus we are liberated from self-seeking to share in the agony and pain of others.

The cross discloses to us the pain and agony of God for his creation. Kitamorai, a Japanese said that the pain of God belongs to his eternal being. The pain belongs to the essence of God. It is eternal and not temporary.

In Jesus Christ, God let himself be pushed out of the world on to the cross. To be liberated by Jesus is to be pushed out of our comfortable position on to the periphery where the people suffer and are marginalized.

Christian spirituality is liberation, it is freedom. It is freedom to participate in the suffering of God for the world. It is suffering love. It is this suffering love of Jesus on the cross which attracted Gandhi of India to Jesus Christ. Gandhi’s philosophy is called satyagraha. There are two principles involved in satyagraha. satya (truth) and ahimsa (nonviolence) The goal of Gandhi’s religion was the attainment of truth. To him only truth is eternal. Truth is God. ‘I am a humble seeker after truth and bent on finding it. I count no sacrifice too great for the sake of seeing God’s face’, he wrote. The means to achieve truth is ahimsa. A satyagrahi is one who fights for the truth through non-violence.

For Gandhi, non-violence meant suffering love. During the struggle for independence, repressive violence was used by the colonial government against the innocent people of India. Gandhi resisted the violence by non-violence. Satyagraha or non-violence is not passivity. Gandhi was a great activist. He challenged all injustice, all human pretensions. He fought against the greatest military force of his day by non-violent methods. A satyagrahi is not out to conquer but to convert, not to prevail, but to persuade. He or she has infinite patience and all humility. A satyagrahi does not bulldoze others, but takes the way of self-suffering. A satyagrahi is not a fanatic. For Gandhi, Jesus was the supreme satyagrahi.

In recent years there has been a good deal of emphasis on spirituality. A large number of publications have appeared on the subject. We need to ask: Are we following the spirituality of the cross? Authentic Christian spirituality is understood and lived where there is real sharing in the pain and agony of Christ for the world. It is only by becoming the victim that one becomes a priest. Jesus Christ is our high priest because he is the lamb that is slain for the sins of the world. He is both the sacrifice and the sacrificer. Victimhood is the essence of priesthood. There is no priesthood without victimhood.

In Hinduism, at the centre of vedic revelations is the idea of sacrifice. There it is said that the Lord Prajapati, the God, sacrificed himself and out of that sacrifice came a new word. He was both the sacrifice and the sacrificer. At the origin of everything there is a sacrifice that has created it. The texture of the universe is sacrifice. The cosmic law, according to Hinduism, is not a mathematical law but a sacrificial order. The universe is created by self sacrifice, by self giving love and is sustained by it. It is this sacrifice which preserves the universe in existence, it is that which gives life and hope of life. This also is tine of Christianity.

Our movement towards the periphery where people experience pain and suffering is not simply doing a good deed, but it is also a process of our becoming participants in God who creates and sustains the universe. Every act of self-sacrifice is an act of creation or new creation. We are also recreated in that process.

Jews call for miracles, Greeks for wisdom, but we proclaim Christ -- yes, Christ nailed to the cross, and though this is a stumbling block to Jews and Greeks alike, he is the power of God and the wisdom of God.


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