From different beliefs. As he rounded up men

From Hunter to Hunted:
A Study In Spiritual Wellness

Once
upon a time (around A.D. 33, to be exact), there was a man who so strongly held
to his beliefs that he felt compelled to declare war against a group who held
to different beliefs. As he rounded up men and women to send into prison, he
truly believed that he was doing the right thing and serving his God. His God
didn’t approve, however, so this didn’t last very long. On the way to arrest
more people, the man had a personal encounter with the (murdered and
resurrected) Head of the group he was hunting, which sent his life catapulting
in a dramatically different direction.

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The
man was called Saul; but today he is better known as the Apostle Paul. The
Person he met on the road to Damascus (where he wanted to arrest ‘criminals’)
was Jesus Christ; and the people he was hunting were later called Christians.
In the matter of weeks, this firebrand went from hunting people who held the
Christian worldview to propagating it so effectively that its message reached
the corners of the known world at the time—the whole of the Roman Empire.

But
that’s ancient history. Why should we care?

Because
Paul is a great example of wellness— in not only the spiritual realm, but also
the psychological, emotional and the social. Paul’s commitment to spreading his
message came at a price: in the form of often deadly backlash from his birth
community, the Jews; and sometimes from other communities where he took his
message. But unlike his life before the Damascus Road Encounter, he now
responded with the peaceful, turn-the-other-cheek philosophy that became famous
in Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount and was later adopted by Mahatma Gandhi. Paul
lived a very difficult life, which he summarises in one of his letters:

Five times I
received from the Jews forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten
with a rod. Once I received a stoning. Three times I suffered shipwreck. A
night and a day I spent adrift in the open sea. I have been on journeys
many times, in dangers from rivers, in dangers from robbers, in dangers from my
own countrymen, in dangers from Gentiles non-Jews, in dangers in the city, in
dangers in the wilderness, in dangers at sea, in dangers from false
brothers, in hard work and toil, through many sleepless nights, in hunger
and thirst, many times without food, in cold and without enough
clothing. Apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my
anxious concern for all the churches. (2 Corinthians 11:24-28, the Bible, New
English Translation)

Some of these events are recorded in detail
in a historical book in the Bible, written by Luke— a physician who was a close
friend of Paul’s and accompanied him in his travels. Paul’s reactions to
assault are almost ridiculously blasé. He is whipped bloody and put in the
stocks in a prison, and at night he sings hymns while his fellow prisoners
listen (and probably try to decide if he was a madman or just an
extraordinarily strong man). He gets stoned (a Jewish form of execution) and
left for dead, then gets up and the very next day travels to another place. No
rest, no recuperation! The historical account written by his friend is peppered
with incidents such as these. Another time, he’s on a ship to Rome, as a
prisoner; and the ship is overtaken by a storm. After weeks of struggle, when
the experienced sailors and soldiers on board have given up hope of survival,
it is Paul, their captive, who stands to encourage them.

He was a mentor to hundreds of people, for whose
well-being he took personal responsibility. He had close (platonic)
relationships with co-workers and mentees, some who were as close to him as
family. And his letters show that he was not out of touch with his own
suffering. He was perfectly self-aware, but his white-hot focus on higher
things prevented him from being slowed down by minor (!) things such as murder
attempts on his person. His letters deal with deep philosophical and
theological ideas that are still studied and debated today; so his cognitive
capacities were absolutely ship-shape.

But
perhaps this is not as extraordinary as it seems. After all, history is full of
extraordinary men and women who suffered all kinds of torture for causes they
believed in, and still emerged undefeated and unbroken.

What
sets Paul apart from these people? It was his admission of complete weakness
apart from God and his dependence on this Higher Being. He said multiple
times that he had no strength of his own. In another one of his letters, he
says, “I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.” (Philippians
4:13, World English Bible)

This
is very, very crucial: it was Paul’s worldview and belief in the person of
Jesus Christ that gave him his vision and drive and courage. He admits it
himself. This is where he parts ways from other extraordinary people whose
great accomplishments are attributed to their own commitment, discipline,
compassion, and so on. Paul, however, says in his letters that he cannot and
will not take the glory for his own accomplishments, because they were done
through Someone Else’s strength. “I have been crucified with Christ,” Paul
said, meaning that his life was so given to his mission that he might as well
be dead to other things, “and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in
me. That life which I now live in the flesh my earthly body, I live by faith
in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20,
World English Bible)

Sounds
like he’s describing zombies, but what he means is this:

That
Paul’s life was completely given over to Christ because Christ had died to save
him (and anyone else who believes in him) from hell.

This
meant following the teachings of Christ (the worldview laid out in the Bible)
to the letter; and spreading the message about the salvation Christ offered.
This concept of salvation is shadowed in Indian psychology by concepts such as nirvana,
moksha etc., but isn’t quite the same.

Paul’s
wellness was tied into his philosophy of spiritual wellness. The Biblical
worldview on the matter runs counter to modern psychology (Brace yourself; this
can be a little shocking):

People
don’t need spiritual wellness. Because they’re spiritually dead. Dead people
don’t need health; they need life.

Translation:

Humankind’s
biggest problem is not repressed childhood memories, incorrect conditioning, or
the need for self-realisation, or irrational beliefs, as the major schools of
psychology (psychoanalytic, behaviourism, humanism and cognitive psychology
respectively) say. It is deadness—being separated from the Creator. What
humans need is spiritual life—i.e., to get back in a relationship with
Him. As for health and wellness, as Paul’s life demonstrates, spiritual,
emotional and psychological health naturally follow (sometimes in extraordinary
measures) when an individual is related to his Creator in the manner he is created
to be. An admittedly crude analogy that is often used in this context is as
follows: The manufacturer of the machine has ultimate say in how the machine must
be run, and if used in any other way, the machine will meet an early demise, to
say nothing of its failure to fulfil its intended purpose.

Hundreds
of thousands of people since the dawn of history, till Paul’s time, down to this
very day, can attest to the veracity of the formula for spiritual life and
wellness outlined by the Grand Manufacturer of Humankind. It is simple enough
that a child can understand it (yours truly accepted it when she was three
years old), and profound enough that philosophers and theologians to this day
puzzle over it. Psychology had best follow suit.

 

Anugraha
Joseph

Roll
No 17PS100106

M.Sc.
Psychology Ist Year