Grace and Peace to you.
Brothers and sisters, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh— for if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.
— Romans 8.12-14
My egoic mind thinks who “I” am is defined by and limited to my individual physical existence, my body. I think I am exclusively this self that is separate and distinct from all other beings, and separate from God. But this definition of the self is a false, misleading and incomplete picture of who I am. Living according to this self-centered idea of the self, “according to the flesh,” I live a self-centered life, prone to sin. I am controlled by the fears, desires and attachments of that little self-contained life and its protection: I naturally seek security, power and esteem (what Paul calls the “deeds of the body”). I cut myself off from God and the rest of Creation, like a branch, as Jesus says, torn from a vine. I wither and die, confined my my mortality. And because my body so betrays me, I live in conflict with my own body.
But what if, as Jesus said, “I am in God and you in me and I in you”? Then who “I” am is not centered in myself, but in God. Who I am is part of God’s “I AM.” I am not an individual, isolated self but an aspect of the Holy Presence, a finite manifestation of the Infinite One. So instead of falling for the natural belief that I am my body, limited to it and a slave to its needs, I can enter an alternative consciousness, and engage in a different way of living. I can live a God-centered life instead of a self-centered life. My body is not merely my own flesh but the Body of Christ. Trusting that I am prone to grace I can let God’s holy yearnings within lead me. I can be led by the Spirit, God’s Presence in me (even in my body). I can live, as Christ, in totally free self-giving.
In a self-centered consciousness my body is the culprit in my mortality and the root of my sin. Flesh is bad. But in a God-centered consciousness, flesh is God’s good creation. My body is my connection to God, a way in which God’s creating Word is in me. Flesh and Spirit are both good, both entwined with each other: that’s what Creation is, the bonding of flesh and Spirit. It’s what incarnation is: love made flesh. There is no conflict between them. The conflict is between seeing flesh as evil and seeing it as good, because the conflict is between being self-centered and God-centered.
Live by the Spirit, Paul counsels: let God’s Spirit lead you instead of being driven by your hunger for comfort, control and approval. There is life in this. And in this life, there is joy in the body. Use your senses to behold the wonders of God. Use your hands to serve, your feet to dance, your guts to feel deeply. Your flesh is the way God’s Spirit enters the world. You body is not a limit, but a starting place. Let your flesh live in Spirit, and it will be good.
Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes