Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Flesh & Spirit

Galatians 5:16-24  Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want.  But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law.  Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness,  idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions,   envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.   By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness,  gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things.  And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

It is difficult to read a translated text and accurately understand the original nuances. This passage uses a juxtaposition of ‘flesh’ and ‘spirit’ to understand our lives a followers of Jesus. The Greek word for flesh (sarx σάρξ ) refers to the sinful state of human beings, often presented as a power in opposition to the Spirit (pneuma πνεμα). When assisted by the original Greek, the verses above read as follows:

I say then: Walk in the pneuma, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the sarx. 17 For the sarx lusts against the pneuma, and the pneuma against the sarx; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. 18 But if you are led by the pneuma, you are not under the law.

This draws on a Greek philosophical concept that defines our lives as consisting of body and spirit. Paul uses this to encourage followers of Jesus not to be distracted by the “desires of the flesh”/sarx/σάρξ, but instead to be led by the promptings of the spirit/pneuma/πνεμα.  This resonates with anyone who has struggled with the tension between the selfishness of our inner drives of lust, desire, and passion -  and the knowledge that these cannot have unfettered reign over our thoughts actions.
As we submit our lives to the direction of the Spirit, the selfish passions of the flesh will be transformed, so that they produce “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control”.


For Thought
Take my will and make it Thine,
It shall be no longer mine.
Take my heart, it is Thine own,
It shall be Thy royal throne

Frances R. Havergal, 1874



Third Sunday after Trinity
33 Christian Maturity
The Scripture passage for the day is drawn from Reuben Job and Norman Shawchuck, A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and other Servants, (Nashville, The Upper Room 1983), 207.
This reflection is from my own devotional exercises for the day.


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