The Bible claims that there is a fundamental reality to people that is not immediately apparent. The truest thing about any person is not something that can be seen. There is a self behind the public self. Of course no one would deny this, but there is also a self behind the private self.
We only catch glimpses of our true self but God sees it plainly. It emerges, inevitably and unavoidably from the heart, the core of the human being. On the Day of Judgment what a person really is – the self behind the self – will finally and undeniably be revealed.
Until then, we judge people by their education, wardrobe, and even their “cool quotient.” Or we judge them by their theology, church attendance, or other criteria. We assume we know them; sometimes that we know them well. But we are unable to see what the Bible calls the “inner person” (literally, “the inside man”). Only God sees that.
St. Paul had to learn that lesson. As a Pharisee, he had judged Jesus by standards like education, accent, and “cool quotient.” He later admitted that his judgment of people, even Christ, was based on “a worldly point of view”; that is, on appearances. But Paul learned how unreliable such a gauge is.
He stopped judging people by appearances. He had made that mistake with Jesus, but he would make it no more. Something had forever changed the way he looked at people.
That something, he said, was the astonishing love of God, made visible in Christ. Paul had come to believe that the central event of human history, the hinge on which the whole world turns, is the death and resurrection of Jesus. He regarded it as the most important thing that ever happened to the world and, whether one realizes it or not, to every one of us.
Paul had thought deeply about this and had come to conclude that through the advent of Jesus God was changing the very nature of reality. He saw Christ’s death and resurrection as tantamount to (and prophetic of) the death and resurrection of the cosmos. This truth broke on him like the sun breaks over the horizon at dawn. In its light everything else took shape.
Paul once sized people up on the basis of their orthodoxy, their morality, and their stand on the finer points of religious law. All that changed when he recognized Jesus as Lord and committed himself to him. Even orthodox doctrine took a back seat to a person’s commitment to the Lord of Creation.
In this new light, Paul could see that Jesus was more than Israel’s messiah. He was the world’s transformer. As creation had once come about through his instrumentality, a glorious new creation, promised in the Old Testament, would once again come through him.
Scientists say that the universe came into being in an instant from a single point, sometimes referred to as a singularity. The Bible, however, tells us that the universe came into being from a single person. Christ is the singularity out of which the first creation sprang and from which a new creation is emerging. He is the door between the spiritual and the material, the eternal and the temporal. And the door is open.
Though the new creation has not yet appeared, the apostle found harbingers of its arrival in the people Christ is making new. Whenever anyone enters into union with Christ through faith, it may truly be said that they are a new creation. In Paul’s words: “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.”
Paul’s own Greek comes in a kind of joyous staccato: “So, if anyone in Christ – new creation!” One can imagine him pointing with delight to people whose lives were being transformed through union with Christ. Each time he saw someone from the Jesus community forgiving an offender, loving a stranger, standing up for the oppressed, or sacrificing for the needy, he saw a harbinger of the just and beautiful creation that is coming.
I wonder what he would see if he looked at us.
First published by Gatehouse Media