“To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews; to those under the law I became as one under the law—though not being myself under the law—that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law—not being without law toward God but under the law of Christ—that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.” (1 Cor 9: 20-23)
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, unapologetically: I love St. Paul. What a giant, what a great “Lion of God,” as Taylor Caldwell entitled her beautifully-written novel about this great Apostle (a good read, BTW, for this Apostles’ Fast).
St. Paul had thoroughly been put through the wringer of public opinion, after “flip-flopping” as he did, from being a persecutor of the Christians to becoming an Apostle of Jesus Christ. As described in Acts 9: 26, shortly after Paul’s miraculous conversion on the road to Damascus, and his not-well-received attempts to preach in that city (and consequently being lowered “in a basket” from the walls of Damascus, to escape certain death), we learn that “when he came to Jerusalem he attempted to join the disciples; and they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple.”
But what does St. Paul do next? Does he latch on to some church-political party, employing certain “identity politics” to create a safe, politically-correct “identity” for himself? No. Instead, he gives up on merely-human “political correctness” and “image” entirely, as described by him above, and embraces the “identity” given to him by God, according to his “vocation” or calling, to share the “blessings” of the Gospel with “all people.” St. Paul’s “vocation” liberates him from “identity politics,” and from looking over his shoulder, to maintain a safe “belonging” to this or that church-political party. Instead, he finds his “identity” in God; in God’s vision of him and call to him. And in God, St. Paul “becomes all things for all people,” liberated from the limitations of his merely-human “identity,” based on some temporal factor like race, ethnicity, gender, or even religious-affiliation and lifestyle (and by mentioning “lifestyle” I mean his reference to becoming “weak for the weak”).
Today let me be grateful for the “wringer” of public opinion, through which God occasionally puts me, particularly in our Internet-Age, to liberate me from the bondage of “identity politics.” These tend to pull us down to a concern about ourselves, our “image” and our “political correctness,” and away from a concern for the greater glory of God and His salvific “gospel.” Holy Apostle Paul, pray to God for us!