Brian’s Reflection: Monday, June 28, 2010
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.
Letter to the Galatians 5, apparently by Paul the Apostle
[ epistle for this Sunday just past, RCL]
Sheer and utter nonsense. And very destructive thinking.
Unless you understand that Paul was writing to a group of Christians, in his own contexts of culture and thinking and experience (as a Jew and then a follower of the Christ), etc. We don’t really know what Paul meant by “Flesh” and by “Spirit” in the context of his time. Many of course have offered their opinion – and I am about to do the same. Not surprised, right!
A. The “flesh” is not opposed to the “Spirit”. This is non-unitive thinking, sometimes known as dualistic thinking: the separating of us human beings into various bits and pieces in terms of what makes us Human. Reality is, we are One: formed of whatever dimensions and dynamics and attributes we identify as making us Human. If there are such differentiated things as “flesh” and “spirit”, they simply are part of our attempt to understand the Whole which we Humans are.
B. The “works” that Paul identifies as of the “flesh” or of the “spirit” are just part of being Human. All those things flow from the Wholeness of who we are. And we have to deal with them all, understand them all, and integrate them all. Then we have to make rational decisions and exert our will over them – by Reason that is aided by such things as “Grace” and Love and Compassion and Truth and Justice.
C. We Humans have desires. They are perfectly normal and understandable, if one understands anything about being human. Some of those desires should rightly be gratified, and some not. We have to judge which are appropriate. That includes the desires of what are sometimes called “spiritual” and “fleshly”. Meeting some desires are necessary or enhancing to our Humanity, and some are not. Our work is to learn the difference.
Let’s not vilify any dimension of our Being. Let’s not exalt any one aspect. Let’s see ourselves as a Whole. Let’s work on all levels to comprehend what makes us most beautifully Human – and nurture those things.
Let June 28th be the start of a new appreciation of our Humanness. Honour and embrace what is lovely, and put aside what is not.