“The world has been crucified to me, and I to the world”

The above is a quote from Paul In Galatians 6:14, which came to mind when thinking about the mess our world is in right now and how we Christians react to it. 

Does the first part, for instance – “The world has been crucified to me” – mean we don’t care about what happens to people, or to the planet? Is it all just dead to us? I’ve often found myself thinking that this world is merely an illusion, or an ugly dream that has to happen, but one day it will all be over and real life begins. So why take an interest in what’s going on, or get involved, because what difference can I make? The world will carry on in its self-destructive ways, with or without me.

And didn’t Jesus hint at this too when he said, “Let the dead bury their dead” in Luke 9:60? Did he too view the world as a lifeless corpse? In which case why would his disciples waste any time even thinking about it, let alone getting involved in it or following its traditions? 

And maybe that has huge appeal to those who believe we’re off to heaven forever and we’re leaving this mess behind. But in context Galatians 6:14 starts off with, “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” So boasting was what stirred Paul to write this verse. It’s written to those who “want to make a good impression outwardly,” verse 12, by their coercive efforts to have everyone circumcised, much like people during the pandemic pushing to get everyone vaccinated. Because in both cases it gave the impression that they, the pushers and demanders, were the ones who truly cared.   

But Paul wasn’t the least bit interested in trying to impress people. That kind of self-righteous, “I’m on higher moral ground than you,” had no appeal to him. That world was dead to him. He wasn’t trying to be something or be a notable somebody, because if Jesus hadn’t been crucified he was a lifeless corpse too. He was nothing without the cross. He’d be like every other human being, clanking and wobbling along a conveyor belt like so many drink bottles, completely oblivious to any purpose or plan to human life – and then die and disappear.   

And how embarrassing that all this boasting by the “holier than thou” crowd was actually to “avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ,” verse 12, just like people who went along with the prevailing narrative during the pandemic to avoid being picked on for questioning or challenging it.

No wonder Paul boasted in the cross, because Jesus’ death had freed him from being driven by what people thought of him, or the impression he was making on them. That awful world of fragile egos and obsessive selfie-images that divided and destroyed people was dead and crucified to him. 

But what about the second part of Galatians 6:14, “and I to the world”? Did that too mean Paul didn’t care, or that he was oblivious to what was happening to people? In context, however, he was talking about “Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation,” verse 15

Paul was dead and crucified to anything but the new creation that Jesus’ death on the cross had opened up to people. Because it was a whole new world that people could experience, rather than arguing endlessly about who’s right and who’s wrong, or who holds the higher moral ground. 

Paul deeply cared for people, which is why he suffered hugely to get that message of good news to them, of a world that’s so much better than the world we worship and the gods we create and depend on. And it’s ours to experience because of the cross, so that we become “a new creation,” because isn’t that what the world needs to see – it’s people who aren’t driven by what divides and destroys us.   

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