But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. (Galatians 6:14-15)
I’m pretty sure thhis is my last post on Galatians. My interest was in trying to understand what motivates the Christian not just to avoid doing bad but to do anything at all. In Chapter 5 Paul contrasts the works of the flesh (bad) with the fruit of the Spirit (good). How does it work? Paul doesn’t offer much by way of explanation, but I’m going to offer a tentative theory:
The Law creates desire: both the desire to please and the desire to transgress. The temporal authorities who stand behind the Law desire to assert authority over those who subject themselves to the Law. This whole economy of Law and desire, power and enslavement, embody the worthless elemental things of this world (Galatians 4:9). The crucifixion of Christ reveals both the futility of the Law and its fulfillment in a new law: love your neighbor as yourself. This new law establishes the foundation for a new creation.
The old creation is a way of being in the world that’s characterized by the Law, slavery, and the desires and works of the flesh. In contrast, the new creation is an alternative way of being characterized by love, freedom, and the fruit of the Spirit. There is no way of changing or renewing the old creation to make it achieve the desire results. The only thing to do is to kill off the old creation and replace it with a new one.
But the self is part of the creation; the self takes on its meaning in the context of the larger reality in which it’s embedded. Killing off the old creation also means killing off your old way of being in the world. The new reality defines what a self is and how selves interact with each other. You can’t transform your old self gradually into this new kind of person, because your old self is part of the old reality. Realities define selves, and selves take their meaning within the context of realities. Paul says to let the old go: the system of the Law and the self’s enslavement to that system. Instead take your place inside the new reality of love, and there you’ll find a self that can live freely inside that reality.
And that’s about all I can see for now.