There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.
To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law – indeed it cannot,and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.
Paul seems to be focused on sins of the flesh. By flesh he is focusing not on our gluttony, our sexual behavior, our greedy appetites, but on our willingness to be obedient to God. That is to walk/live according to the pattern of life in right relationship with God and our neighbors.
In a recent conversation about racism and the subtle things we do to exclude or diminish others, I was moved by the recognition of ways the church and we as members of the church diminish others in very subtle ways that we may not have a clue we are doing. It is about all the forms of prejudice that separate us from one another and from God – just as the Jewish followers of Jesus in Rome judged the Gentiles who were not circumcised or who did not follow the dietary laws of the Hebrew people and as today we are willing to judge others whom we deem not good enough for whatever reason we choose. To live in the Spirit is to live in righteousness rather than in judgment. To live as Jesus lived, welcoming all those who God sent his way, Paul recognized that as dangerous. Look what happened to Jesus. The space where we open our hearts and minds to those who are different is not safe space. It is risky. It is fragile. But if we allow the Spirit of God to fill our hearts and minds, we are freed to see the face of God in the other person and respect their dignity and their preciousness, not just in God’s eyes but in ours as well.
Gracious and loving God, in this season of self-examination and repentance, help us to look carefully at our actions and our words, our welcome of friends and strangers. Help us to recognize our often casual actions, turning them into intentional behavior reflecting Jesus’ radical welcome that we might be the people God longs for us to be, men and women who live all our days according to the Spirit of God who claims us as beloved children. Amen.