Wednesday, January 07, 2015

A Thought for Wednesday 7 January 2015

“The works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries … those who practice such things will not inherit the Kingdom of God.”

“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.  Against such there is no law.  Those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.”  Galatians 5:19-25

“If we live in the Spirit …”  That is a big question and an overwhelming challenge because most of what is written as works of flesh are often sporadic and impulsive.  That is, these things come about when we allow our passions to rule our hearts and minds.  Others, however, are “practices”; that is, they are habits we allow to continue.  All of these practices, however, not only harm the individual “practitioner”; they do harm to others around us because these practices betray our witness AND do direct harm to others.  These practices may be who we are, but they are not who Christ is.

What the Spirit of The Lord calls forth from us, however, not only builds up the individual but also bears more good fruit from others because as it is so often said and observed, people believe what they see – not what they hear.  So when we “talk the talk”, we have set the stage for an audience waiting (maybe hoping) to see evidence of what we claim to be true; they are waiting for us to “walk the walk” and prove it is worth the trouble.  This is what makes all Christians – all who claim allegiance to Christ – “evangelists”, “witnesses”, ministers of the Good News.

St. Paul comes down pretty hard on the Galatians (and the Americans!) in the sense that while they may believe themselves “saved”, he nevertheless points out that those who do not confront their nasty habits and make necessary adjustments “will not inherit the Kingdom of God”.  We can call ourselves “saved” all day long, but our own proclamations will not “save” us when Christ comes if our practices make us look like minions of the evil one rather than disciples of the Risen Christ.

The Scriptures are very demanding of us who claim and embrace The Name, but the Scriptures also hold out our hope for “grace”; that is, mercy we do not earn.  This means that when we stumble unintentionally, grace will lift us up if we are willing to get up.  If our “practices”, however, have become so much a part of who we really are, that we are just “set in our ways”, we are in danger of the Judgment.  Grace helps us to make the necessary adjustments, but grace will not – cannot – absolve an unrepentant heart.

So we are compelled to ask ourselves not only this morning but each and every morning we draw a breath: who are we?  Whose are we?  It is not about what we say; it is entirely about what we do.  This our neighbors will believe.  This our Lord will believe.



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