We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
16 So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. 17 For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.
19 The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.
Paul's letter to the argumentative and self-righteous Galatian Christians was my mens' group study on Friday. "Resist the flesh by nailing it to the cross," says Martin Luther on this passage. Hmmm. Right now?
Moral failure in the church should not be a surprise, nor should it be considered fatal to the life of the church. What is important is the church's response when such failure occurs. The church may respond with harsh condemnation under the law. That response will crush the sinner and divide the church. That seems to have been what was happening in the churches in Galatia. The zealots for the law were merciless to sinners. But Paul wants to show that the occasion of sin is the opportunity for Spirit-led people to display the fruit of the Spirit in order to bring healing to the sinner and unity in the church.
In order to bring healing to the sinner, we must have a compassionate view of the one who has sinned. Paul does not define the kind of sin, but he does describe the consequence of sin. He views the sinner as one who is caught in a sin. When a person sins, other people are hurt; other people are victims of that sin. But we must remember that sinners themselves are also in some sense victims of sin. Abusers have also been abused. They have been overtaken, ambushed and seized by sin. Paul is not excusing the sinner of personal responsibility. But he is recognizing the terrible captivating force of sin. Just as Jesus said, "Everyone who sins is a slave to sin" (Jn 8:34), so now Paul says that the one who sins is trapped by sin. When we view moral offenders as those who are enslaved and entrapped, we have a compassionate attitude toward them. We will want to help them break the bondage of sin over their life.