In today’s Epistle Reading, St. Paul exhorts us to live and walk by the Spirit (Gal. 5:25). He also paints a picture of what this looks like:
the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control … have no self-conceit, no provoking of one another, no envy of one another … Bear one another’s burdens. — Gal 5:22-23, 26; 6:2
This is pretty straightforward stuff; however, Paul complicates things by mentioning that there is no law against the fruits of the Spirit (Gal. 5:23) and that bearing on another’s burden’s fulfills the law of Christ (Gal. 6:2). When St. Paul uses the word law, he isn’t talking about traffic rules, he is talking about God’s Law.
Let us remember what the ultimate purpose of the the Law is — revelation. It tells us who God is and who we are in relationship to Him. Since we are fallen, it demonstrates to us our sin and the necessity of God in our life in order to save us from sin and its primary consequence — death. There is no law against love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control because these are all attributes of God. There is no law against being like God. In fact, God made us in His likeness to be exactly that — like God.
Our ability to become like God has never been more possible than right now. God so loved the world that He gave us His Only-Begotten Son who willing went to the Cross and Tomb so that He might send us His Holy Spirit. At our chrismation, we have all been sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit Himself. This is why St. Paul calls all of these wonderful attributes of God — love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control — fruits of the Spirit. When we allow these things, these attributes of God, to manifest in our own life we are allowing the Holy Spirit to manifest in and through us.
By the grace of God, I have been blessed to do a lot of pre-marital counseling with several couples of late. In these sessions I always remind them of the Epistle reading for weddings. Among the feminists, it is a very unpopular reading:
Wives, be subject to your husbands as you are to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife just as Christ is the head of the church, the body of which he is the Savior. Just as the church is subject to Christ, so also wives ought to be, in everything, to their husbands — Eph. 5:22-24
The feminists, however, conveniently ignore the next verse:
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her — Eph 5:25
Marriage is given to us so that we learn how to be like Christ. We are given crowns of martyrdom because a successful marriage requires that we sacrifice for each other. In learning how to sacrifice for one another, we learn how to fulfill the law of Christ. We learn to be like God.
In the coming weeks, we are going to be talking about stewardship, budgets, parish council elections, the May dinner etc. You will be asked to give your time, your treasure and your talents to the Church. In hard economic times, especially during a season of the year as full and busy as this one, we are going to be tempted to say no, I can’t afford that.
Today, St. Paul is reminding us that you can’t afford not to. At the root of all these things we are aren’t going to find money, time or talent. All of these things have been given to us by God, just as marriage has been, so that we can learn how to be like Him. These are not burdens, these are opportunities. With St. Paul I humbly ask that all of us take advantage of these opportunities in the coming months to allow the Holy Spirit to move in and through us. I pray that through the intercessions of St. Paul we all use these things to become like God and fulfill in us His greatest desire for us — that we fully and willfully embrace the image and likeness that He created us for. Amen.