Scripture: Galatians 5:16-24
Key verse: (16) “Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh.”
Reflection: In Paul’s theology there are two worlds: the world as it is, and the new creation inaugurated in Christ. One of the ways he talks about these two worlds is by differentiating the world “according to the flesh,” versus the world, “according to the Spirit.” The church in Galatia was dealing with a controversy over the flesh; the question of whether or not Gentiles had to be circumcised in order to become true Christians. Paul rejected this premise, because it was ,“a work of the flesh,” quite literally. (Sorry to be so graphic in a morning devotional, but it was what it was!) Paul equates it to other works of the flesh, beginning with sexual immorality and moving toward worldly attitudes like jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions…”and things like these.”
These are contrasted by “the fruit of the Spirit.” Note that Paul does not refer to this as the “fruits” of the Spirit, but rather simply “fruit.” This is not a to-do list. It represents those things which are present in the world according to the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (That’s a list worth memorizing!) Wherever we see these actions in practice, we see a world born of God’s Spirit. This is the world to which we as Christians are called to witness. By God’s grace and the Spirit working through us, it is the world we are called to embody.
God knows our world has a terrible shortage of spiritual fruit. We are in a spiritual food desert! We are quite familiar with the world according to flesh. It’s playing out before us as we see political leaders being forced to face their actions in younger days, born of the world according to the flesh, a world of white-privilege that saw no problem whatsoever with painting their faces black with shoe polish in the name of “fun,” clueless to the pain such mocking imposed. It’s playing out in other leaders claiming racial heritage that was not theirs to claim. It’s playing out in the inequities that continue to define our society, in the ways our laws are enforced or ignored, in the ways our political leaders engage one another. It’s not hard to see the world according to the flesh. It’s before our eyes and within our hearts every minute of every day.
God knows we need to be saved from this. God knows we need a new creation that is not defined by the categories of our world that breed anger, quarrels, dissensions and factions. God knows we need new life. And God has given us this new life in Jesus of Nazareth, who by faith we call “the Christ.” By his grace, we are free; free to live in love, to work for peace, to extend kindness, to be generous, to embody faithfulness, to practice gentleness, and to exhibit self-control. When we experience this, we feast on the fruit of the Spirit.
God knows, we need more such fruit in our lives.
Prayer: We are starving, O God, longing for the nutrition only your spiritual fruit can bring. We settle for the junk food of a world defined by dissensions and divisions and strife and enmity. Feed us with your justice, O God. Fill us with your mercy. Fuel us with your Spirit that we might embody the Beloved Community that is your New Creation; that world for which we pray every time we say, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done one earth, as it is in heaven.” Amen.
Author: Joe Clifford
[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].