“Ladder Theology” – Debunked by a Life of Participation
Paul was a devout Jew, who strictly obeyed “The Law”. On the rod to Damascus to arrest more Christians, he was blinded by a bright light and heard a voice say, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me?” I am Jesus, the Nazorean.”
N. B. The pronoun: “Me” was the life-changing distinction. Paul was persecuting people who BELIEVED in Christ. Paul NEVER MET Christ. For Christ to make NO distinction between Himself and those who believed in Christ, was transformational for Paul. Belief in Christ was the same as sharing the life of Christ – the same as Christ being in the life of the believer.
That congruity was the basis of Paul’s analogy of the Body of Christ.
We are acquitted of our sins by belief in Christ’s death & resurrection, and are reconciled into the life of God. As worthless broken branches, we are re-grafted into the life-giving vine of God. As such, God’s love flows though us, to others. That is the wonderful dynamic of the Mystical Body of Christ. God’s unilateral gift of love to one part, is shared with each other part. There is a Corporate, Cosmic Unity to the Mystical Body of Christ.
More incredible, was Christ choosing Paul, a sinner (a hateful murderer), to be His “Apostle to the Gentiles”. Paul understood that he did nothing to deserve that selection, which led to his theme of “Grace”. Grace means free gift. We do nothing to earn it. Grace is not performance based. God loves us as we are – imperfect sinners. Paul states, that our redemption was nothing we earned by keeping Laws (Galatians). Keeping Laws and doing good deeds doesn’t make God love us. God already loves us, so He sent His Son, to reconcile us with Him.
Paul eschews the notion of meritorious “Ladder Theology” – that we climb to heaven by the performance of good deeds and adherence to Laws, to make us worthy of God’s acceptance. Our culture believes in Pavlov’s paradigm: Stimulus /Response / Reward: If we work hard, and produce good results, we get our reward. It’s a quid-pro-quo system based on performance & justice.
Christ’s death & resurrection turned that paradigm upside-down. Christ knows we are guilty, and acquits us, anyway. This is counter intuitive to the performance principle. It is God’s unconditional love, not performance & justice, that hung on the Cross. Paul acknowledged the guilt and futility of “Ladder Theology” when he wrote, “When I want to do good, I don’t. And when I want to avoid evil, I do it anyway.” – (Romans). Paul’s transformation came from his experience of God’s love, not Paul’s worthiness.
Paul knew that the Old Testaments’ bi-lateral covenants were broken by humanity. Christ’s New Testament covenant is Unilateral Love, available to All who accept it.Paul wrote his letters without the benefit of reading the gospels, which were written later. Paul never knew the parable about paying laborers the same for different performance. That’s the Paschal Mystery.
The hardest thing to accept is that God accepts us, as is. God knows we are guilty, then acquits us, by Christ’s death. We become a “new creation” – children of God – heirs to heaven by Christ’s resurrection. As such, we will love God, and others, as much as we allow God to love us. The dynamic of the Body of Christ is to allow the “vertical” love of God to flow “horizontally” through broken vessels to each other, whose love, in turn, flows back to God, and so on and so on.
We share God’s love because we want to, not because we have to.
The Above YouTube Music Video & Lyrics Express the Essence of the Blog Post about The Mystical Body of Christ
This transformational conversion experience of living “In Christo” results in “suffering and death”. Paul speaks of dying to the old-self. The old-self is selfish. It’s petty, and needy of admiration and affirmation though praise of achievement – through the acquisition of things. The old-self is defined by persons and things outside of itself. It’s fragile, because its validity is determined by changing life situations. Paul turns that cultural notion upside-down.
Our value comes from the life of Christ within us. We are made by God, and for God. Until we understand that, life won’t make sense. By dying to selfishness, we experience the presence of God within us, and live “In Christo” – in Eucharist. The “old-self” is powerless against “Powers and Principalities”. The “New Creation” in Christ, triumphs.
Participation in the Mystical Body of Christ is an act of love. It is sharing who we are & what we have, asking nothing in return, to make other lives breathe easier.
The Gift of God’s Grace makes it possible.