Reflection for Today ▶️ ⏩ ⏹️
For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another. This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.
— Galatians 5:14-16
Paul begins this part of the letter with the clear statement that freedom in Christ is freedom from Jewish law,1 but then goes on to remind his reader that freedom from the law does not mean freedom to do what you like. We are freed from the law to do God's work, to love and care for one another, not to become self-indulgent, greedy or sinful. We are freed from the letter of the law, in order to understand and embrace the spirit.2
Paul goes on to offer a long list of sinful practices, adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings... and then faithful ones, love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance.... Such lists can only ever be partial, and will change with the times. Essentially though, the core difference being called out here is that the first list is about self while the second about the other. To live the faithful life we must become other-centered rather than self-centered, to love thy neighbour as thyself. Loving the other more does not mean that we should love ourselves less, only perhaps differently, with more reverence, and as gifters rather than consumers.
In our current culture it seems that more and more we are being pulled into the bondage of self, and from this prison arises the vast increase in depression, anxiety, addiction, self-harm and suicide. We are blaming it on Covid19,3 but the seeds for this despair have been germinating for a long time. We are fast becoming a sad, lost people, with capitalism, short-term thinking, competition, rewards/punishments and consumerism/ownership being offered as replacements for love and purpose. While we succumb we stay adrift, disconnected from each other and from God, of the flesh only and not of the spirit.
1 Galatians 5:1 & Commentary on Galatians 5:1, 13-25 by Alicia Vargas, 26/06/2016
2 Galatians 4:21 & Spirit, yesterday's reflection
3 For example, Covid-19 has led to a sharp increase in depression and anxiety and COVID's mental-health toll: how scientists are tracking a surge in depression