Scripture Reading: Romans 8:6-11
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. –Romans 8:6-11
The Greek word for flesh used here is sarx* and means merely of human origin or empowerment*.
4561 /sárks (“flesh”) is not always evil in Scripture. Indeed, it is used positively in relation to sexual intercourse in marriage (Eph 5:31) – as well as for the sinless human body of Jesus (Jn 1:14; 1 Jn 4:2,3). Indeed, flesh (what is physical) is necessary for the body to live out the faith the Lord works in (Gal 2:20)*
Flesh is a technical word in Paul’s writings, referring not primarily to physical acts (i.e., sex or eating) but to the fallen nature of Adam, thus humanity apart from grace. The old written code refers to observance of Torah divorced from the intentions and Spirit of God.**
We let ourselves off too easily when we limit Paul’s discussions of flesh to misuse of sex or overeating or things like these. Humans tend to gravitate toward the world of “what’s in it for me”. If obeying a series of laws gets us a better seat at the table, then we are in the game. The Hebrew Bible calls us to obey a series of laws out of our desire to demonstrate our love of God and God’s desire for us to live in community with God and all his children. His rules provide guidance for such a way of being.
God continued this quest by sending Jesus Christ into the world not only to model the life God envisioned but ultimately to enable us through grace to become whole and partners in building the Kingdom God desires. Why is it so hard for humans to grasp the truth that what is good for me is good for you and what is good for you is good for me. God is glorified when we can accept and live God’s truth.
Prayer: Lord, forgive us when we rely on our human nature more than we rely on you. Makes us whole, make us one. Amen.
**The New Interpreter’s Study Bible, New Revised Standard Version with the Apocrypha, Abington Press 2003, page 2019