“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do…Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.” (Galatians 5:16-26)
Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the deeds of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit. In these difficult times it is so crucial that Christians be characterized by love, joy, peace, patience kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. In the midst of all the political and social discord, when Christians respond with enmity, strive, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions and divisions we are just another log in the fire. We need to bring peace, patience love and kindness!!! I’m so tired of all the social/political language that is so devoid of the fruit of the Spirit and so abundantly characterized by the deeds of the flesh!
Then, yesterday, I responded in a “fit of anger” to a brother over an email.
In the end it turned out to be a misunderstanding that was my fault (I missed the middle emails that explained the last one). I was embarrassed, ashamed and reminded that it isn’t those angry political posters that have a problem. We have a problem. I’ve seen this problem manifesting powerfully in my life on way too many occasions. Genesis 3 affects us all. None of us can throw a stone.
Living as a family is hard. I remember seeing a pickup truck belonging to a campground in NC. Its name and slogan were on the door. I forget their name, but I’ll never forget their slogan, “We’ll treat you like family, but come anyway!” What is the attraction of being treated like family? I’m thinking it is that you can be close, secure, and let down your guard. So why the plea to come anyway? I’m thinking that when you let down your guard, you must also let down your façade (maybe your façade is part of your guard). In any case, family-style living makes you vulnerable and somewhat more ugly in the sight of the others. And, vice versa. Who sees your less-than-perfect Christlikeness more than your family? Whose less-than-perfect Christlikeness do you see the most? Plus, the closer you are, the more it hurts.
It is important to remember that because we are a royal family (adopted by THE King), what we manifest is more than just annoying. We are manifesting the Kingdom—it couldn’t matter more! I like how Eugene Peterson put it, “[the church is not]…a humanly managed popular provider of religious goods and services, but a congregation of embarrassingly ordinary people in and through whom God chooses to be present to the world.”
Does it honor God to be right while manifesting enmity, strife and fits of anger? What is the point of being right, anyway? If it is to bring something of the love and beauty and truth of God to the world, it is even possible to be “right” when the deeds of the flesh are abundant? A world-class chef making a dish containing kobe beef, real saffron and truffles doesn’t give you anything you’d want to eat if the sauce is from an unflushed toilet down at the bus station.
Two points of application: 1: Let’s give each other a lot of grace and love. God requires it, and we all need it. 2: Let’s help each other do better. God calls us to be like graphite rods in the nuclear-reactor-like culture in which we live. Not like unstable nuclear fuel contributing to an explosion. This is a hard and painful calling. God help us! And, let’s help each other. You know, that campground slogan would work well for a church…