The recent reading from Galatians 5 can make me nervous. “Brothers and sisters … now the works of the flesh are obvious: immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, rivalry, jealousy, outbursts of fury, acts of selfishness, dissensions, factions, occasions of envy, drinking bouts, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the Kingdom of God. In contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…. (Gal. 5:18-25)
So the implication of this passage is that those displaying the fruits of the spirit are on their way to heaven… those who are clutching the works of the flesh are going to be rejected by God. There’s not a lot of “wiggle room” described in this passage.
So what is it that makes me nervous when I read this passage? Well, it seems most people like you and me, even most Christians, even most saints at various times in their life have a mix of the works of the flesh and the fruit of the spirit evident in their lives. Even St. Paul as he’s lamenting his thorn in the flesh, exclaims “who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:24-25)
I was meeting with some wonderful holy men recently and we were sharing about our life in Christ… our victories and struggles. As Proverbs reminds us “ a righteous man falls seven times, and rises again; but the wicked are overthrown by calamity.”(Prov. 24:16) Not one of these good men is sinless, yet each continues to fight the good fight of faith. Each day includes battles against sin along with wonderful acts of holiness and love. This mix can cause frustration …” boy, if I love God, why do I still sin…. oh what to do, what to do, what to do……”
I believe the Lord would exclaim to us in a loud voice, Men of God have hope…. trust your Father in heaven. Let’s recall Philippians 1:6; “be confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” God who began a good work in us will finish it on the day of salvation. We will battle for the rest of our life, but the Lord will ultimately bring victory. The Lord loves us and has conquered the nagging sin that can plague us. Let’s not allow this fight that we all face steal our joy. Our hope is in the Lord, not in our weak frame that too often causes us to trip and fall.
Because of the terrific love of God for us, we’re on our way to heaven where all the remnants of sin and death and Satan will finally be vanished ….. for ever. And that is very good news.