Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Galatians 5:19-23 -- On Lists and Inheritance

"Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness,
Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies,
Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law."
Galatians 5:19-23

I love scriptural lists.  I think they help us to take a step back and check our lives against something specific, which helps a lot when we are trying to fulfill commandments like "be ye therefore perfect" (Matthew 5:48).  And on these specific lists there are some old favorites that are fairly clear, like adultery, fornication, and murder, but also some others that might need more thought or explanation.
Variance and emulations are interesting ones on the bad list.  These words both have definitions that are different from the way that we usually use them.  Variance isn't just change... It can also be the idea of disagreeing or rebelling against something, or even permission to ignore the rules.  Similarly, emulation isn't just trying to be like someone else.  It can also mean the ambition or envy that is needed to be super competitive and pass other people up.  Witchcraft is another interesting word on the bad list.  When we see the word we might think of Harry Potter and friends. :) However, the word can also mean a negative and uncontrollable obsession, and communication with the devil.  The idea of witchcraft in a scriptural sense always has something to do with evil spirits, not the more recent idea of magical power from an unbiased source. :)
On the good list temperance is interesting.  Some people are only familiar with the word with relation to alcohol specially, but temperance in a more general sense is the idea of always keeping our actions, thoughts, and feelings in control and acceptable.  Kind of like moderation in all things... never letting ourselves get out of control, or past the line into too much drama, which is probably the problem with many of the things on the bad list.  Things like drunkenness, wrath, hatred,  heresy, and even revellings can push us out of control, or just be the indicator that we have crossed the line.
The cool thing about these lists is that if we choose some of the good things, that idea of there being no law against them means that we have some areas where we know we're not going to go wrong... We can learn about faith for years, for instance, and never worry that we will have too much.  So unless we're neglecting other things by studying too much, or putting our faith in something other than God, we don't have to worry about limits.
God is a cool parent.  He never just says no.  He offers us other options, and his options are always going to be better for us in the long run... but also can be good now.  I mean, joy and peace are both on the good list here.  Who doesn't want those?  Today, let's focus on the good list, and working for those things.  Let's let go of things we're holding onto from the bad list.  Let's not get in our own way as we strive to inherit the kingdom of God.

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