Whenever we travel I have to depend on my wife. I tend to do things at the last minute and when it comes to packing I would probably forget half the things I needed to include were it not for her. She makes lists. She gives me a list for packing personal things. She gives me a list for packing the car. I need that structure and order. Am I doing the right things as I get ready to travel? All I have to do to answer that question is check the list. As great as lists are for preparing for something like travel, lists for behavior aren’t the way to go for living the Christian life.
We like to judge whether or not a person is a Christian by their behavior. Someone that does something that is “non-Christian” is met with disapproval, especially if they claim to be a Christian. Someone who does something that is “Christian” is lauded as a Christian whether or not they have a relationship with Christ. “Christian behavior” of course is usually defined by the person commenting, so, one person could praise a “Christian” behavior while another person would condemn that same behavior as “non-Christian.” It’s a crazy world. Paul has two lists in today’s passage. One is a list of the works of the flesh, the other is the fruit of the Spirit. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23)
In the passage Paul deals with the problem of living in freedom. The Spirit has set us free. The question then becomes, can I do whatever I want? I’m free, so why not. I can sin and God will forgive me because grace, right? The problem is that people who think like that are not living according to the Spirit, they are following carnal desires. The purpose of our relationship with Christ is to give us freedom from our carnal desires and freedom to follow the Spirit so that we can draw near to God. It is an interesting paradox that if you use your freedom to follow carnal desires you are submitting to slavery to sin. On the other hand, if we live by the Spirit, it will be evident in our lives.
There is a danger even in a list that describes the fruit of the Spirit. If you were to take that list and apply it to my life, you would find times that I don’t meet all the components of the list. Ok, all the time you would see me failing in one area or another. The key is not following a list of required behaviors; the key is following God’s plan as the Spirit gives power. Our joy as followers of Christ is not that we follow some list; it is that we have freedom from our carnal nature and the ability to walk in the Spirit each and every day. As we do that, the works of the flesh disappear from our lives and the fruit of the Spirit shows through us so that others will also be drawn to Christ.
Lord God, how often I fall back into my carnal nature. If people wanted to look at my life through checklists of “good” and “bad” behavior, I would fail. Thank You for Your Spirit to guide me. Thank You that when I fail, Your grace picks me up and draws me back into my relationship with You.