True Self and False Self-Flesh and Spirit

A Butterfly pleases God by being a butterfly.

Paul is at times difficult to understand. Part of Thomas Merton’s genius was his ability to translate Paul into terms more understandable to twentieth century people. Thus, Merton speaks of the false self—the flesh—and this avoids all the dangers of confusing Pau’s fleshl with a Platonian hatred of the body. The false self is as the following indicates so clearly “hostility toward God and the things of God.” When we dwell in the power of the Spirit, we live from our true self which is concerned with “life and peace.” Here, eirene—peace in Greek—echoes shalom which is life, peace, wholeness and well-being. Our true self lives in and for “God Alone” which is inscribed over a portal at the Monastery of Gethsemane. The Spirit—capital “S”—dwelling in us brings us into our true self formed in the image of the God who creates us. I have re-translated part of Romans 8 using the false self and true self.

Brothers and sisters:
Now there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
For the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus
has freed you from the law of sin and death.
For what the law, weakened by the false self, was powerless to do,
this God has done:
by sending his own Son in the likeness of the flesh
and for the sake of sin, he condemned sin in the false self,
so that the righteous decree of the law might be fulfilled in us,
who live not according to the false self but according to the spirit—the true self.
For those who live according to the false self
are concerned with the wants of the false self,
but those who live according to the spirit—the true self
with the things of the true self anchored in God.
The concern of the false self is death,
but the concern of the true self is life and peace.
For the concern of the false self is “hostility toward God”;
it does not submit to the law of God, nor can it;
and those who are in the false self cannot please God.
But you are not in your false self;
on the contrary, you are in the spirit—the true self,
if only the Spirit of God dwells in you.
Whoever does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.
But if Christ is in you,
although the body is dead because of sin,
the spirit—the true self—is alive because of righteousness.
If the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you,
the one who raised Christ from the dead
will give life to your mortal bodies also,
through his Spirit that dwells in you. (Rom 8:1-11)

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