Saturday, March 13, 2010

Galatians 5 and Conflict

It is interesting that Paul makes two lists in Galatians 5 that are frequently quoted: the works of the flesh and the gifts of the Spirit. But a careful examination of the two lists shows that, more than anything else, Paul is contrasting those who increase conflict with those who are making peace in community. I’ll give each list, with just a little bit of editing (check it out yourself in Galatians 5, please), and you can see it yourself:
Introduction—“The whole law: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. The opposite: biting and devouring each other.”
Works of the flesh:
Outbursts of anger
Those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Fruit of the Spirit:
Joy (taking joy in others)
Peace (being at peace with all)
Faithfulness (keeping promises to others)
Self-control (Not being controlled by the list above)
Against such things there are no law.

Thus, those who are not of the kingdom are characterized by making strife, and those of the Spirit are characterized by love.

This means that in our ministry, if we create strife, then we are not acting in accord with the Spirit, but with the flesh, which will deny us the kingdom of God. If we create peace and joy and kindness-- even to those who are in opposition to us-- then we are likely acting according to the Spirit.

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