Monday, November 10, 2014

No Law Against It

Paul creates a stark contrast in Galatians 5 between the spiritual nature and the corrupt nature. Starting in verse 16:

Let me explain further. Live your life as your spiritual nature directs you. Then you will never follow through on what your corrupt nature wants. What your corrupt nature wants is contrary to what your spiritual nature wants, and what your spiritual nature wants is contrary to what your corrupt nature wants....If your spiritual nature is your guide, you are not subject to Moses' laws.

Now, the effects of the corrupt nature are obvious: illicit sex, perversion, promiscuity, idolatry, drug use, hatred, rivalry, jealousy, angry outbursts, selfish ambition, conflict, factions, envy, drunkenness, wild partying, and similar things. ...But the spiritual nature produces love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There are no laws against things like that.

Most of us recognize the latter part of this passage as the "fruits of the Spirit," and what's interesting to look at is the statement Paul makes immediately following the traits of the spiritual nature: There are no laws against things like that.

It's interesting because most of us live like there are.

Paul has spent some time listing the traits of the corrupt nature, all against the laws of Moses. Yet these are the things that we see so frequently on our televisions, in our headlines, and even in our living rooms that we hardly seem to notice them any more. Angry outbursts? That's just human, right? We see those every day; we are guilty of those every day. Selfish ambition? That's the only way to get ahead in this world. Drunkenness? Wild partying? We are adults; these things are our right. Illicit sex? Promiscuity? Television is rather boring without them. These things have become the norm for our living. We don't even notice any more. And we certainly don't feel the need to defend ourselves for experiencing them. After all, we're just human.

Yet in the very same breath, most of us find ourselves in a position to defend whatever fruits of the spirit might manifest in our lives. Say that you love someone even when they have done something unlovable. You're not commended for your love; you're questioned for it. Say that you have joy when the world around you is crumbling. You're not celebrated for it; you're chastised for it. Peace in the storm, patience in the trial, kindness in the accusation, goodness in the evil, faithfulness in the questions, gentleness in the wound, self-control in the free-for-all...for these things, we are not applauded; we stand accused. 

We stand accused of the things against which there is no law. We stand accused of light in the midst of the darkness. We stand accused of calm in the midst of the storm. And far too often, we're taking the bait. We live our lives defending ourselves, having done nothing wrong, to those who stand in the wrong and profess their "right" to do so. 

The adulterer comes accusing us of our love and we stumble over our words and trip over our hearts and try to find the words to defend our love when the issue is not our love at all; it is his. It is his broken love that accuses ours. It is his failed commitment to love that cannot understand our faithful love. The envious and jealous come accusing us of our peace, and again, we feel like we must defend ourselves. We must justify our peace. But peace is not ours to justify; they are only interested in our peace for their lack of it. Those who accuse us of our kindness are mourning their bitterness. Those who accuse us of our patience are railing against their own entitlement. 

What this world accuses in us are only the very things it wishes it had for itself. The spiritual nature is counter to the corrupt nature; the two make no room for each other.

And while I'm not saying that we turn the tables and accuse the corruption of this world (that never works), I am saying that it's time we stop defending ourselves where there is no law to condemn us. And the law that condemns this world? It is already at work. We need not defend it. 

We need not defend God, who is doing His work within us. He doesn't need us to defend Him. We don't have to justify what God does in this place, what He does in our hearts, what fruit He bears in our lives. We don't have to give reason for Him. There is no law against these things. Stop living like there is. 

Start living like the fruit of God is in you and let the harvest be the food for a starving world. You don't have to accuse a broken love; the fruit of love in you condemns it. You don't have to accuse the jealous or the envious; the fruit of kindness in you condemns them. You don't have to accuse the hateful or the contentious; the fruit of peace in you condemns them. Your life, by nature of its fruit, pours out new wine on this world and all its old wineskins can never hold it. By simply living the fruit of the Spirit, you bust this world wide open and create a place for that wine to pour through. 

You create a place for love by loving. A place for joy by rejoicing. A place for peace by living in peace. Patience, by being patient. Kindness, by being kind. Goodness, by being good. Faithfulness, by being faithful. Gentleness, by being gentle. Self-control, by holding yourself in. ...And letting God pour out on a broken world.

There's one more difference between the corrupt nature and the spiritual one. The corrupt nature defends itself by accusation and condemnation, by requiring an explanation for anything that stands in contrast to its ways. 

The spiritual nature doesn't need to defend itself at all.

Celebrate love. Rejoice in joy. Live in peace. Wait with patience. Act in kindness. Offer goodness. Practice faithfulness. Embrace gentleness. Discipline yourself. There are no laws against things like that.

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