In preparing for the men's Bible study this evening, I've been reminded what an amazing letter Galatians is. Angry, passionate and containing the most incredible charter for freedom ever penned.
I've been particularly struck by 5:16-26. If his first hearers were not to submit to the Law, what was to stop them living morally chaotic lives? The Spirit. Simple as that.
God's Spirit is the powerful presence of the future (as well as God himself) in our present. He ensures we triumph in the battle between the present evil age and the glorious age to come (Galatians is a wonderfully apocalyptic book!).
5:17 is not saying that we flail helplessly, pulled first one way by our flesh and then another by the Spirit. Rather, it's reminding us that because we are indwelt by the Spirit, we cannot choose as our way of life, behaviour that is opposed to God's will. Rather we can only do - that is, we are only allowed to choose to do - what God wants. More than that, though, the Spirit in us is God's investment in us not only choosing that b ut also being able to live it because he is the Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead.
And there's more. We don't do this alone. The fruit of the Spirit is not about more loving, joyful and peaceful human beings but about more loving, joyful and peaceful human communities. Churches ought to be places marked by acceptance and love, peace between us, joy in one another's company, faithfulness in relationships, self control in the way we speak to and about one another. They ought to be that. But...
But, they can be that because that's the kind of community the Holy Spirit grows when a group of Christians tell God that's what they want and commit themselves to walking the way of the Spirit.