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. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 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, self-control; against such things there is no law. Galatians 5 v 16 – 23
We begin this week, in this season of Pentecost, by looking at two lists in one passage. As we discover the gift of the Holy Spirit given on the day of Pentecost, we gain a phased understanding of the qualities and “fruits” of the Spirit and our Galatians passage asks us to contrast the Spirit and the flesh. Of course, there is nothing wrong with “the flesh” we are, as humans beings made of it! However, the desires of the flesh can get out of hand and be destructive to individual well being and community relationships. Look at that list and I’m sure you can match some of the “works of the flesh” to stories we hear each day on the news about crimes in our society and world. On a lesser scale we can also see some traits that we have ourselves such as jealousy, anger, desire and rivalries. Remember the well known passage from 1 Corinthians 13 about love? Well, love is not anything on that list.
We are encouraged to walk by the Spirit.
I had a thought this morning about when we might be out for one of our lockdown walks, as hopefully we’ve all been managing and we get to some tricky terrain. Imagine a really steep hill or a field with uneven ground, a bog or a fence with barbed wire to climb over. Suddenly the step by step unconscious journey you have been making becomes very conscious; you concentrate on exactly where you are putting your foot, you concentrate all your energy and balance into your footing and once you are back on your steady way or even once you are home, you remember that part of the journey vividly. Essentially, that is mindfulness. Being very alert and aware of every aspect of what you are doing. I think that this is what “walking by the Spirit” means. Filling whatever it is you are doing with a sense of connection to God; being mindful that God is in the moment with you. Of course, I’m not suggesting that you over think every thing you are doing; most of our day is smooth and automatically filled with tried and tested good behaviours. Yet, when you get to the tricky terrain – the temptation, the obstacle, the uneven ground, the huge hill to climb, that’s when we should pray for the qualities and the fruits of the Spirit to transform the situation. Jesus once said “The Spirit is willing but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26 v 41) – we all have our weaknesses but by the power of the Spirit we can get in touch with spiritual resources that will make our daily walk stronger and more fulfilling.