But We Still Need It

Early on I made the brash statement that our flesh isn’t bad. I was hoping to pique your interest . . .

Why the Flesh Isn’t Bad

God made us as empty vessels –needing to be filled with Him, by Him and for Him. To give us time and opportunity to find that out, He gave us a temporary mechanism for operating independently –without Him. (Of course, it’s our flesh.)

He has carefully placed us in this world –with just the right surroundings and just the right people– so that we can experience the results of that independence –realizing our fears, our ineptness, our failures, our emptiness. We had to become frustrated with ourselves while we were immersed in decay and death.

Without those experiences we wouldn’t have needed God. There would be no praise for His mercy, His protection, His provision, His strength, His compassion. We would still be competing as little gods trying to prove our worth for the short time we’re here.

Surely the flesh isn’t good –not with “good” meaning that it’s valuable to God and that He will keep it forever. And yes, the flesh is evil –with “evil” meaning that He will abandon it to oblivion. But is it bad? On the contrary, our flesh shows us every day that we aren’t God –and that only He is.

The flesh is neither good nor bad –neither pleasing nor displeasing. God designed it to motivate our bodies when His Spirit isn’t. As such, the deeds motivated by the flesh cannot please Him –only those deeds motivated by the Spirit can (from Romans 8).

During this journey of faith, God steadily changes the way we think –He “renews” our minds so that we understand and know Him better all the time (from the first part of Romans chapter 12 and 1 Corinthians chapter two). As we grow in this knowledge, we (as His ambassadors for Christ) tell others about the One who gave us new life.

Greatest Commandment

When Jesus was asked “What is the greatest commandment?” –He responded with “You shall love Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul and all your mind” and “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (from Matthew 22:34-40).

The terms I used in defining the word bone from Adam’s description of his mate were “body, soul and spirit” –with the soul consisting of the mind, will and emotions. I also noted that the heart is where the flesh’s law is kept (those core values and beliefs).

It would be reasonable for you to ask “How do those terms reconcile with Jesus’ words about loving God and our neighbors?”

The context of that Matthew passage is essential. The question “What is the greatest commandment?” didn’t come from an inquisitive, faithful follower –it came from one of the Pharisees’ legal experts who was trying to trick Him into contradicting Moses’ Law.

Once again . . . That Law has two purposes: To prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that Jesus was the Messiah –the Son of God– who was promised centuries in advance of His coming. It also proves that no one else is Him –we are not God.

Here’s how His response might have been stated if He had chosen to elaborate using those earlier terms . . .

  • In your heart, change the basis for all that you do –eliminate every natural response to the world that you’ve developed during your lifetime –and adopt God’s ways in place of your own.
  • In your soul (your mind, will and emotions), change all of your decision-making and planning, change the object of your tenacity and change your feelings such that every part of your life is lived only for God.
  • In your mind, train all of your thoughts be on Him –not any on yourself. (He put extra attention on the mind since it’s the thinking part of the soul.)

That might seem possible for someone to do –but the word love in this passage comes from the Greek word agápê –it’s the endless, selfless love that only God possesses and is capable of giving.

That’s the “love God” part. The next part was to “love your neighbor as yourself.” Following that commandment might translate to . . .

  • When you’re hungry and eat a meal, make sure you also invite those who are hungry in your community and feed them too.
  • When you’re tired or when the weather conditions are uncomfortable and you retreat inside, take the homeless in there with you.
  • When you bathe and put clean clothes on, bring in the needy and do the same for them.

The same word for love is used in both places –agápê. And the only One who has ever demonstrated love like that was Jesus Himself.

Those words, “Love God with all your heart, soul and mind” and “Love your neighbor as yourself” sound admirable –but they weren’t, and still aren’t, a motto for believers to live by. It was a demand meant to crush and humble the self-righteous Pharisees.

Undoubtedly we should care for those around us –as He leads us to. The point is that only He is truly capable of loving so selflessly.