I was thinking on Galatians. I can’t wait to take the class this upcoming semester. I’ve been doing work on it before hand. I noticed that in chapter 5 that this is the letter that lists out the fruits of the Spirit. Many have tried to make this a simple list of virtues and the list of effects of the flesh as a list vices. I’ve been wondering if that was necessarily the case. I have been trying to move toward looking at Scripture as more about the community known as the Church rather than so much about the individual. There are a few places where I have to accept that the individual is important, but here I might not have to, thanks to the use of an Anchor Bible commentary on Galatians.
When I look at the lists, they seem to follow a pattern of actually being general and ambiguous.
“Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these.”
I noticed that this list starts with 3 sexual elements, a reference to open sexuality, a violent sexuality, and a bragged about sexuality (subtleties of Greek), all of which are the abandonment of God’s purpose for sexuality (which was a Jewish opening to speech against gentiles).
“idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy”
And then we move to a list of a very religious matter but very peculiarly moves into an obvious list of things that are bad for the community. But I noticed that most of this list is in essence or things that could be viewed as bad for a community. Which leads to the next part of the list.
“drunkenness, carousing, and things like these”
The first part is directed toward how alcohol can bring a person to only look at himself and ignore the needs of others. If this is a list of rules, it makes sense to say none of these things, but it seems as if the following words imply a general ambiguous list of things that point to a stronger point: the destruction of the community.
“I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God”
The point of this is that those who try to disrupt the community and do not find value in the Church instead of themselves will be judged as not fit for the Kingdom of God, meaning that no matter how “on fire” for God some might think you are, if you do not love your brother as the Torah commands, then you will not be allowed into God’s presence when he fully takes over things here on earth. Paul does not imply that when God gives grace that He steps down from his throne. That would be a form of Deism.
“By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control”
This verse sometimes puts the fruits as “borne” by the Spirit. In it the Spirit and who is led by it produce something, particularly something that is in contrast to what came before (the works of the flesh). It’s not an exhaustive list. Just look at how ambiguous it is. But it does have one core element, love reflected in a way that can only be seen in community. And anything done in love among those in community Paul describes as follows:
“There is no law against such things”
Very well said, Paul. No law against, and without saying that there is something free yet goal oriented about Christianity and how it performs community. It’s not a list of virtues, but an incomplete list of things springing from Godly community.
“And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires”
So, then, we can choose to do something about this. We notice that there is a group of people (Christians) who belong to the Christ, who is Jesus. The crazy part is that these people have crucified the flesh. Many think that this is talking about crucifying your own flesh, but the flesh is actually seen as a cosmic power and is put as another entity which has it’s own will. So is the Spirit. As a community of God, we have already crucified the Flesh (or so we should have). This is rhetoric stating how it should be. It is something that is the way it should be, but things Word (will) of God always be fulfilled in order to be a reality.
So when you look at these lists, don’t just reproduce it.
See it’s meaning,
and then live it out.
Live out community in love.
Don’t just look at these fruits as something you get as an individual and as virtues that you as an individual, but look at these things as not the point at all, except for the words love, joy, and peace in the old Jewish sense (Deuteronomy 6:4-5, Leviticus 19:18).
So when you find someone else this week.
Look at them.
Find some worth in them.
And see that we belong together as people.
Let’s find value together in the Lord, our Lord, God.
Grace and Peace.