How are we to put Paul’s insight about the “fruit of the Spirit” into practice? What is entailed in being “led by the Spirit”? This seems like a vital question in relation to Galatians 5:15-23, the text we are studying for Sunday, May 29. [Some notes on the text are here.] Before we delve into this practical question, however, we might want to spend some time on a couple of other preliminary questions:
Do we understand verse 16 – “do not gratify the desires of the flesh” – to mean that we should not, for instance, eat when we are hungry or drink when we are thirsty, or adjust the thermostat when we feel too warm or too cold? [People have understood it this way.] Or do we understand it in some other way? However we understand it, what seem to be the practical implications of that understanding?
[More personal] What do we ourselves do to follow through on the practical implications of our understanding of this text?
Verses 16-17 describe the problem facing the Galatians (and, by extension, other Christians, like us) as a conflict of desire: the “desires of the flesh” are opposed to the “desire of the spirit.” How do we understand this opposition?
What ARE the desires of the flesh, and how do we think they are related to the “works of the flesh” listed in verses 19-21? [It might be a worthwhile exercise to take the items on the list in verses 19-21, and see if we can see how they are related to some desire or desires. Does desire, or some desires, lead to, or produce, or result in, each of these works? Or, is desire related to these works in some other way?]
What IS the desire of the Spirit, do we think? How is that desire related to the “fruit of the Spirit”? [Again – can we understand the items on the list of “fruit of the Spirit” as the product of desire? What desire? Or, are they related to the desire of the Spirit in some other way?]
Do we understand Paul to be telling us that gratifying the desires of the flesh interferes with life in the Spirit, and prevents the development of the fruit of the Spirit? Again, what seem to be the practical implications of this point of view?
What thoughts and feelings does Paul’s presentation here raise for us? Why is that? [For instance, do we agree with Paul here? Do we have objections to this way seeing things, or see any downside to it? Would we want to qualify or modify Paul’s statement here in any way? Why?]
[Much more personal] Do we ourselves feel we have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires? How are we ourselves doing, on that score?
Would we say we are working on that? How? Or, not? Why?
Would we say this is something to work on? Why, or why not?
Image: “Figures in Conversation – Étaples,” Leslie Hunter, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons