Freedom (# 1058)

28 08 2016

1.This post today could be called “Lists”; who doesn’t like lists. The Buddhists have their kleshas; the Jews have the Ten Commandments and the medieval Christians had the seven deadly sins. Paul invites us to consider a pair of lists in today’s reading.

A little bit of a change today for the Fifteen Sunday after Pentecost which is today, as I write this, my friends. I am using the readings from an older Lutheran Liturgical calendar published in 1959. The readings for this Sunday are proverbs 4:10-23, Galatians 5:16-24 and Luke 17:11-19. This discussion will use the Epistle from Galatians; the J.B. Phillips translation is as follows:

16-18 Here is my advice. Live your whole life in the Spirit and you will not satisfy the desires of your lower nature. For the whole energy of the lower nature is set against the Spirit, while the whole power of the Spirit is contrary to the lower nature. Here is the conflict, and that is why you are not free to do what you want to do. But if you follow the leading of the Spirit, you stand clear of the Law.

19-21 The activities of the lower nature are obvious. Here is a list: sexual immorality, impurity of mind, sensuality, worship of false gods, witchcraft, hatred, quarreling, jealousy, bad temper, rivalry, factions, party-spirit, envy, drunkenness, orgies and things like that. I solemnly assure you, as I did before, that those who indulge in such things will never inherit God’s kingdom.

22-25 The Spirit however, produces in human life fruits such as these: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, fidelity, tolerance and self-control—and no law exists against any of them. Those who belong to Christ have crucified their old nature with all that it loved and lusted for. If our lives are centered in the Spirit, let us be guided by the Spirit.

Putting this passage in context Paul is discussing freedom from the “law”; in a larger context Galatians was a letter that stressed becoming independent from human chains and dependent on God.

In this passage Paul is saying that if everyone were to live a spiritual life there would be no need for law. The law deals with the first list (19-21), some may refer to this list as sins. Some of these are the Buddhist kleshas; some are not.  For Paul freedom does not mean you do all these things. Instead, living a spiritual life will preclude one from these activities. Paul then goes on to a second list (22-24) of what living in the Spirit does produce: love, peace, patience, kindness, etc. Paul cleverly notes that no one has ever had need to create laws concerning these.

Some of Paul’s critics may have assumed repudiating law would lead to an outbreak of sinful living. Paul looks into what it means to live a deep spiritual life as opposed to a superficial one. Is it idealistic? We can look around and see spiritual leaders who are full of compassion and kindness. We know there have been many in the past. I think Paul is telling us we can each be like that and even gives us an empowerment. Paul ends today’s passage with a crucifixion metaphor; each of us has can crucify our old nature and live a life “centered in the Spirit”. We too can envision a cross and crucify our negative impulses of our “lower nature” as they arise, or I might picture a cross with lots of post-it notes, needed especially when I am driving an automobile.

2. A new day to be grateful for another 24 hours.

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