If this is your first viewing, please see my Introduction before reading this.
9 October. Galatians chapters 4-6
In the letter to the Galatians, Paul introduces the theme of “Flesh and Spirit” which also appears in his letters to the Romans, Corinthians and Ephesians. What exactly he mans by the “flesh” is a matter of some debate, but something like “the human tendency to please oneself, even at the expense of others” seems to be getting close. The Spirit, on the other hand, is God’s presence with us drawing us into the sort of lifestyle that pleases God, because it involves laying aside our own self-interest for the sake of others. The starkest contrast between these two influences is in chapter 5 where Paul lists first of all the “works of the flesh” – including the many forms of human conflict as well as various sexual sins and drunkenness. “By contrast”, Paul writes, “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity [or goodness], faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” (5:22-23).
I recently went with a small group from our church on a weekend away at which we considered these fruits of the spirit. We were urged to work at developing these fruits in the coming weeks. I know I certainly have to work at patience and self-control! But given that the whole thrust of this letter is about Christians no longer having to conform to religious rules, the last thing Paul would have wanted is people either comparing themselves competitively with others to see who is the most joyful or generous, or getting anxious about not being as much like any of these as they would like to be. The whole point of these “fruits” is that it is God who grows them in us. We just have to provide the right kind of soil, that is to say, by being open to God through prayer and scripture, we create the right conditions for these fruits to grow in the way we live with other people.