But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. 1 Corinthians 15:10.

The ‘Cultural Onion’ is a diagram used to describe the cultural make up of individuals and societies and how that make up affects the behaviors of people. The concept uses the layers of an onion to illustrate the idea that the outer layers of a person are not, in essence, who that person it. To find the real person the layers must be peeled away until you reach the very core of who the person is.

All of our actions, feelings about ourselves and others, reactions to the circumstances of our lives and our values come from that inner core. The inner core of our being is what we hold as most important in life. It’s what we live for and what we base our life view on.

The concept is really a new way to explain what the Apostle Paul teaches us in I Corinthians 15:10. This verse is part of Paul’s teaching on the essence of the Christian life. It tells us why we do what we do. Everything Christ-followers do hinges on the fact that Jesus Christ was Son of God, crucified, risen and coming again. Nothing else really matters.

Whether we realize it or not, everything we do is based on how we view ourselves or, what is at the core of our being. Paul tells us a little about his self-view when he states that he is the least worthy of any apostles to be in the position that he is in. In other writings we see Paul, formerly Saul, as an aggressive, angry, hateful man intent on destruction of ‘The Way’ and all those who followed Jesus of Nazareth. Paul’s passion was based on his strong belief that these followers of Jesus were tools of Satan intent on destroying the true way to God. Paul was a murderer, a blasphemer and all around nasty guy.

But Paul had other qualities as well. The only ‘Bible’ the early Christians had was the Old Testament. Paul was an expert on the teachings of the law and as a contemporary of Jesus of Nazareth could very well have sat under some of His teaching. Paul’s education and heritage put him heads and shoulders above the rest of the apostles.

But none of that mattered. Paul took his self worth from the grace that he received through his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Paul took all the good of his past and realized that it didn’t measure up to God’s standards. He looked at all the bad of his life and saw no hope for any life at all. But when he looked at himself as God saw him, through the lens of Jesus forgiveness he was able to say, “all that I am is based on the grace given me.”

The same Grace that made Paul the great teacher that he was indwells each of us as Christ-followers. When you peel away all the temporal things of this world, your toys,  your job, your friends and family, even your community or church activities, what is left? Like Paul, as we peel away everything about us we should be able to say, “I am unworthy of all I have. But what I am is very special because my being is not based on my own abilities, past or accomplishments. I’m important because through Jesus Christ I am a child of God, empowered by grace to change my world for Jesus.

PRAYER: Father, as I look into my past I see so many ways I’ve failed you and failed others miserably. The more I try to succeed the more I struggle to stay afloat. Thank you that the person I really am is the person that you have made me through Your Son, Jesus. Free me from my tendency to rely on my own accomplishments and strength. Empower me by Your Spirit to live according to who You see me as.