“To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.”
Romans 8:6 (NRSV)
I want more life and peace – so why can’t I just set my mind on the Spirit? Daily I am pulled between “the things of the flesh” and “the things of the Spirit.” Or as St. Paul said in our reading from Romans 7 last week, “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate… I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.” (v. 15, 19)
If St. Paul struggled mightily, in his call to follow Jesus, what chance do I have? O Lord, what will end this struggle within me?
Would more maturity allow me to follow Christ more devotedly? That is, wait a few years and the struggle will be nonexistent? I don’t think so. I’m turning forty this year, so there’s no denying anymore that I am an actual adult. Although I have a little more self-control than the days of my youth, the struggle between the flesh and the mind is as real as it ever was.
Would more money free me from earthly cares and desires and help me follow him more single-mindedly? Pretty sure that would just cause me to struggle more between the spirit and flesh, so that’s a no. Would more free time allow me to achieve a Spirit-based mindset? Well, if how I use my free time now is any indicator, I’d probably find a way to squander that too. What about more sleep? Would that help me in this struggle? Real talk: as someone who has only had a handful of uninterrupted nights over the past ten years, I’m going to mark this one as a maybe.
No, the struggle isn’t ever going to end as long as I am in this body. In other words, the struggle will actually kill me. But here’s some amazing news: “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.” (Romans 8:11)
Christ dwells in me – that’s not something I have achieved, it’s the promise of my baptism. That knowledge leads me on through the struggle. Knowing that I’m surrounded on every side by the support of a Christian community, like the one we’re in together at First Lutheran, encourages me too. And we have the gift of the promised Spirit among us to “help us in our weakness” and daily forgive our sins in the name of Jesus Christ. Yes, the struggle is real, but God is greater!
See you in church,