“Life in the Spirit” is a phrase and construct which has been hijacked to account for any strange behavior that emotionally troubled Christians wish to exonerate. While in college, I went away for a weekend spiritual retreat only to find that my then girlfriend had received a ‘spiritual vision’ to marry another guy she had met on Friday night! Imagine my surprise (and later my relief) to see her packing on Sunday evening to leave with her new husband to the mission field!
In the world of psychological differentiation there is a cottage industry devoted to shattering the human condition into a thousand single ‘brands.’ Pop psychologists emphasize self-actualization, gurus proclaim self-renunciation, secular humanists espouse privatization and charismatics can be guilty of spiritual decapitation.
Reducing the human experience into a single formula belies the complexity of integration that makes us wonderfully and fearfully made. This is the message that Paul emphasizes in the verses looked at in this week’s message.However, Paul is not shy about warning the Galatians regarding the implications of such a complex message and grace.
Preoccupation with a codified religious experience will lead the believer into a ‘head-centered’ doom loop that will strip away the very vitality of communal living. Paul actually begins his teaching on the “Life in the Spirit,” a theological underpinning of the Christian experience that he will extrapolate in other epistles, as a way of unifying believers of all ilks and brands. At the same time, the presence of the Holy Spirit in the life of the follower of Jesus produces a freedom from flat-sided living.
This Sunday we celebrate Pentecost, that great day God gave us the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives to help us live and breathe the righteousness he has for us. Like good wine, the presence of the Holy Spirit produces a wonderfully complex human experience of love and grace, communalism and individual identity.