Manage episode 371677851 series 3023172
Spiritual and Worldly Life
In today's passage, we see a clear contrast between the life according to the Spirit and the life according to the flesh. The spiritual life and the worldly life.
For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. (Romans 8:5)
What does it mean to set the mind on the flesh? Does this mean to live morally sinful life? Does this mean breaking the law? Does this mean violating cultural norms?
The most common understanding of the difference between the spiritual life and worldly life is. Spiritual life is living a moral and religious life and the worldly life is living a secular life. We think of it as something that you do or not do. Just a lifestyle on the surface.
In today's passage, I think Paul is talking about something deeper than that.
What is this flesh? The flesh is yourself. But a particular aspect of yourself. Your dark self. You can call it your shadow self.
Do spiritual people not have it? No we all have it. We are all influenced by this flesh. It is not something that you can deal with by doing anything. It is not about doing anything. It is the condition of your heart.
It is our dark side. It is a place we don't want to go, we don't want to be. Behind the social mask we wear every day, we all have this hidden side that we don't want to expose. It makes us feel embarrassed and shameful. That is what the flesh is.
It is the self that torments us. It is not only unacceptable to others but also unacceptable to ourselves. It creates tremendous inner struggle within us. The flesh is the reason we hate ourselves. It takes away our joy and our confidence. It takes away light from us. We feel dark when we face this shadow. Unbearable guilt torments us.
We don't feel it most of the time because we hide it very well deep in our secret place. We put it in there and shackle it with a lock, thinking that it is dealt with. But just because we hide it away and lock it away, it doesn't disappear. We may repress it but it's there. It only goes deeper within us. You can never shackle it with a lock. There is no lock in the world that can lock up our flesh.
This is what Swiss Psychologist Carl Jung said.
Everyone carries a shadow and the less it is embodied in the individual's conscious life, the blacker and denser it is. (Carl Jung)
Repressing it, denying it, and hiding it – that is what we do. We think that we can handle it by doing this. But what we are doing is just getting rid of it from our awareness. We are just turning a blind eye.
Its effect is still there. The more you hide it, the more powerfully it will affect us. It creates anger, shame, guilt, fear, and a sense of worthlessness. We become cold, detached, indifferent, and self-centered. We become damaged. We cannot feel for others. We cannot feel life.
This shadow can manifest itself collectively, then it becomes collective shadow. One good example is the Holocaust. It can affect the whole nation. They don't feel it and so they can do unimaginable things. It is a malady of modern society. They set fire on a person just sitting in the subway. They just shoot a person without reason. No feeling left any more.
Jesus saw that very clearly. We reflected on this last week.
We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not mourn. (Matthew 11:17)
You become emotionally dry. You become incapable of emotionally engaging with others.
This dark self does not allow us to live an integrated and authentic life. We sense hypocrisy within us. Our smile is a fake smile. Our kindness is merely a social gesture. We are not real. Nothing matters except me.
That is what the flesh looks like. That is what it means to live according to the flesh.
Thing is you can never get away from the flesh. It is who you are. Your shadow self is also yourself. Your dark side is also you. Whether you like it or not, it is you. The more you try to hide it, the more it will control you. The more you try to get rid of it, the more it will make you feel helpless.
The solution is not to hide it. The solution is not to get rid of it.
The solution is for the flesh to serve you, not to make it become your master. Don't give power to your flesh but let it serve you.
There is a famous Argentinian writer. His name is Jorges Luis Borges.
All that happens to us, including our humiliations, our misfortunes, our embarrassment, all is given to us as raw material, as clay, so that we may shape our art. (Jorges Luis Borges)
I think it is a good advice.
Creativity does not come from only what is good. Creativity comes from both good and bad. Even our flesh, our dark side, when it is in God's hands, it changes its effects. Instead of destroying us, it will help us to be creative.
It is possible because God gave us the Spirit. The Spirit is the greatest gift Jesus gave us when he left the earth.
And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you for ever. (John 14:16)
You have the Spirit within you. And the Spirit is more powerful than the flesh. The Spirit is the only way that can bind the power of the flesh. You don't have to worry about yourself so much.
Do you know why people don't have peace? Because they worry about themselves. I am the greatest source of my worries, my anxiety, and my fear. I am the greatest source of my misery. I am the greatest enemy of myself. Because we are still governed by the flesh.
Self-obsession is not loving yourself. It is fear of yourself. Even though it is you, you are not comfortable with yourself. Living like that is living according to the flesh.
Jesus rescued you from your dark self. You are a precious child of God.
The Spirit declares that you are God's precious child. The Spirit cries out that you are God's child.
For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, Abba! Father!' it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God (Romans 8:15, 16)
You have the Spirit. Now you can deal with your flesh.
When the dark thoughts come upon you, don't be scared. When condemnation oppresses you, don't let it take you into darkness. You have the Spirit. St. Paul said, there is no more condemnation.
That is how he started the chapter 8.
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1)
That Spirit will give you strength. That Spirit will lift you up. That Spirit will take you into the light.
You will be filled with hope, confidence, and creativity. No more shame, no more fear, no more guilt.
Instead of shame, you will have confidence. Instead of fear, you will have courage. Instead of guilt, you will have forgiveness and righteousness.
Now you can live a life of integrity. You can have an authentic life that does not need to hide away or repress your shadow. That is the power of the Spirit. You are not in the flesh. You are in the Spirit.