The daily lectionary reading for today included a passage from Galatians 5. It contrasts the works of selfishness (flesh) and that of love (the Spirit). I like the way that Eugene Peterson's The Message renders it:
“It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time: repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community. I could go on.
But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely. Legalism is helpless in bringing this about; it only gets in the way.” Galatians 5:16-26
The danger, of course, is to make this all about morality and miss the bigger idea - the Gift of the Spirit, or the fruit of the Spirit that grows in our life. Often, we make the mistake of reading Paul as if somehow he is a christianized Moses with a new set of do's and don'ts. Many get caught in a legal view of a list of behaviours and miss that the issue is selfishness, seeking to get life from things other than God. This looks like the voracious, indiscriminate consumption of things and people in a manic feeding frenzy of sorts in search of life.
When we do this, we risk missing and often end up heading in the exact opposite direction we are being called to. Paul is reminding us that genuine life does not come from our ability to keep the rules but in relational trust with God in Christ. Paul calls us to a new way of being human, instead of being selfish we are to live lives of love. Paul understood that we get the lesser with the greater. That as we seek first the Kingdom of God, we will naturally leave behind selfishness. He understood that repentance is a natural consequence of our ongoing experience with (knowing of) God. As we continue to experience the love of God and practice our turning to God, the natural result is the healthy development of lives that are consistent with Kingdom love.
This is maturing in Christ or if you like, becoming love. It is the transformation of your old self into the new creation where we are loved into a new way of being human - turning from selfishness in its multiplicity of forms and false piety, and embracing the freedom of self-giving, sacrificial love and this looks like: