Life by the Spirit
13 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.
16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery;20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.
In honor of the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. last week, we are reflecting on the qualities that made him a great leader, not only in the Civil Rights movement, but also in the faith.
John Wesley wrote a letter of encouragement to the 18th-century abolitionist William Wilberforce, in which he denounced the co-existence of slavery with religion. He called it a “scandal”. Wesley understood that personal and social holiness could not reside in the same person who sought to oppress another.
In Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I have a Dream” speech, he commented on the presence of whites in the crowd. “Their destiny is caught up with our destiny; their freedom is inextricably bound with our freedom.” Dr. King understood that oppression of the other is oppression of the self. We cannot succeed in holiness, peace and joy when we do so at the expense of another.
The gospel offers us the opportunity to gain life by losing it. We give away ourselves in order to gain our true selves. What we do in relationship with another is how we live out our faith. God comes near to us so we must come near to our neighbor. And by engaging in the self-giving love of another, both people become more truly and fully human, created in the image of God. Holiness happens in community, not in isolation. As we see in the scripture above, we are given freedom in Christ, but we are not to use that freedom for our selfish desires, but to “serve one another humbly in love.”
Dear Lord, help me grow deep in agape love. Show me the places in my community where I can make a change. Guide me to recognize the limit of my powers and give me courage, strength and grace to act as needed. Help me use my freedom for good. Draw me into new spaces and guide me to share my space with others. Create in me a heart full of grace and a soul full of love for your people. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version ® NIV ®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2014 by Biblica, Inc.®. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.