I ask for the grace to pray and meditate faithfully. I ask for patience, tolerance, empathy, and compassion. I ask to abstain from anger, anxiety, compulsive behaviour, discouragement, and self-importance. I ask to know and follow Jesus more closely, seeking justice, loving kindness, and walking humbly.
16 Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17For 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. 18But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law. 19Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, 20idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, 21envy, 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.
1) "...Live by the spirit;" "...led by the spirit;" "...
2) These are regrettable words. Paul is making a distinction between two ways of being. Unfortunately, his use of "spirit" and "flesh" to distinguish the two ways, will get taken literally, to the detriment of the world. Taken literally, this passage erodes an embodied theology... the incarnation itself, the center of Paul's gospel! Suffice it to be that Paul discourages the behaviours of "fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these." It is a "list," probably a stock list inherited by Paul. It is extensive, thought not meant to be exhaustive. Paul wants us to remember that our "belief" and "faith" are followed by a change in behaviour. To participate in the kingdom of God is to abstain from these behaviours. When we engage in these behaviours, we pound nails in the hands and feet of the very Christ we claim to follow. It seems to me that none of us are free from the accusation of pounding nails into the hands and feet of Christ. I can't imagine many people being free of all of these behaviours... "and things like these." Humility, humility, humility. None of us is all that.
3) What is the invitation in all this? To abstain from behaviours that are a barrier to the Kingdom of God? But that is probably simply not possible. Maybe it is better to seek behaviours that nurture and engage the Kingdom of God, and to cease behaviour that is contrary to the Kingdom of God when we realize we are doing them, and seek amends immediately.
"Holy One, guide us to your kingdom."
Breathprayer: "Live by the spirit... inherit the kingdom."