Monday, 1 September 2008

The Desires of the Flesh

St John's Assembly, Galatians 5:13-1, 22-23.

Some people say that we are the most sexually liberated and free generations of humans ever. And that we have successfully thrown off the chains of sexual oppression that held back former generations.

Well, historically, not exactly true in the way we think. Not true that former generations were necessarily sexually chained in all respects. And certainly not true that this generation is liberated in comparison. It seems to me there are new chains. Like peer pressure, to be cool means, for some, to be sexually active. It doesn't look anything like freedom from where I stand. Looks more like a new oppression to me. But I am just a priest... Resist the pressure, and you might find freedom. That will take courage, and character, and I am starting to learn that courage and character are here in abundance.

Christianity has been criticized for being one of those forces historically that said sex was bad, that anything that was enjoyable was bad. Some truth in that, I am sad to say. But not exactly true. I missed that bit in my Christian formation. I found what Christianity has always said, and it is this: whatever we do, however we exercise our freedom, if what we do is done selfishly, or if the result of our freedom is the pain of another, then it's wrong; if it is done out of love, consideration for the other, then it is right. True freedom does not lie in doing whatever we like. True freedom lies somewhere else.

St Paul in today's reading from the Bible says that true freedom is to be found in the Spirit of God. He contrasts the fruit of the Spirit with the consequences of selfishness. Selfishness brings with it enmity, jealousy, anger, envy and the like. Of course it does, because selfishness (no matter how free it seems) is about me, not us. The Spirit of God, in contrast, brings with it love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Nothing enslaves this Spirit and its fruit, and this Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus, leads to true freedom.

Let us pray.
Jesus, in your life and teaching you showed us the way to true freedom, a freedom that cannot be bound by selfishness, but instead leads to life in abundance for all. We pray for hearts that are free, free to love, free to be joyful, free to be generous, and free to be peaceful.
Give us the courage to choose to be truly free. Amen.

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