The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.
And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
“Do you unite yourself to Christ?” This is a question that is asked of everyone who is baptized in the Orthodox Church before they are baptized. Of course, most of us were baptized as infants and we don’t remember this question being asked of us. If the answer were to be “no, I do not,” then the baptism would not take place. So, presumably, someone said “Yes, I do” on our behalf.
As we conclude this unit on the Fruit of the Spirit, we are going to spend a few days examining the verses that follow Galatians 5:22-23, the list of the Fruit. Today’s verse, if you reflect on it, is actually pretty sobering – those who “belong” are expected to “(crucify) the flesh with its passions and desires.” There is no “belonging” without these things. The problem becomes that we are consumed with the passions and desires of the flesh. We all have a passion for anger, for greed, lust, power, ego, materialism and gluttony (and many more that I’m not listing here). At the moment we are giving in to our passions and desires, we are not “belonging” to Christ. We can’t be Christ – like or Christ-centered in our moments of greed, lust, power, ego, materialism, gluttony or anger.
Therefore it is that in each Christian life there is a battle the “works of the flesh” and the Fruit of the Spirit. And the challenge of the Christian life is how we fight this battle. We all have days when the passions win. And hopefully we all have more days when Christ wins. The “war” is won based on how consistently we fight these battles between the flesh and the spirit.
So, we need to ask ourselves whether we are uniting ourselves to Christ or not, and we have to ask ourselves that on a daily basis, or even more than once a day (because any day can start off Godly and quickly go away from Him). When tempted, we have to ask ourselves that question we were asked our baptisms: Do you (I) unite yourself to Christ? Because those who do will “crucify the flesh with its passions and desires.”
The Church, in its wisdom, has given us many tools to quell the desires of the flesh. Fasting is one of the best tools. Most people think fasting has to do with deprivation and suffering. It doesn’t. Fasting has to do with a discipline of one passion-eating and gluttony – with the goal of taming other passions. If we can get a handle on our passion for eating, that can hopefully translate into handling our passion for greed or anger or ego.
Prayer is another tool we use. Because prayer helps us get a hold of our thoughts by concentrating them on Christ, and when we are concentrated on Christ, there is less room for material thoughts to creep in.
If you feel like you are losing the battle against the flesh with its passions and desires, prayer and fasting are two great places to start. And if you feel like you are doing well in the battle and cultivating spiritual fruit, then prayer and fasting are two great tools to keep away temptation. In fact, it’s hard to keep temptation away without both of them.
So, choose to belong to Christ on a daily basis, and work to crucify the flesh with its passions and desires by cultivation in you the Fruit of the Spirit. And remember, this is a daily choice.
Lord, thank You for the gift of another day to grow in my faith. Help me today to control my passions and desires and instead to cultivate the Fruit of the Spirit. Help me to stay focused on You so that I can glorify You in what I do today. Lord, I belong to You. Let this day, and all that it will bring, belong to You and give You glory. Amen.
Will you belong to Christ today? Let your desire for Christ match your actions!