Thursday of Pentecost 3 – 5:1, 13-25 

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

13 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.

16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.

My father grimaced in pain and held his leg. We had come to the lake for a day of waterskiing but had entered what would come to be known in family lore as the “cruise into terror.” My father had been injured by the speedboat’s propellor, leaving a great gash on his lower leg. In the emergency room a whole team of people leapt into action, injecting him with painkillers, cutting, sewing, and applying all sorts of remedies to him. The doctors assured us that my father had been very fortunate, narrowly missing tendons and just skimming the bone on his lower leg. He fully recovered. We sold the boat.

As I reflect on the work of those emergency room doctors and the other instances in which I have accompanied people to the emergency room or to the doors of a surgery, I am struck by the fact that in any other circumstance, we would charge the surgeons doing this with a crime. They are taking sharp knives and cutting human bodies, but of course they are surgeons, and such violent actions are in fact intended for the well-being of the patient.  Did you notice above that Paul has some very specific things we should not do, but when he comes to what we should do it is spoken only in some rather vague generalities. Some of this is just the nature of the Gospel. It resists rules and rule-keeping. But it is also the case that love sometimes does things which in other instances would be hurtful or even hateful, such as a surgeon in an operating theater. Cutting people would normally be on the list of naughty activities above, but in the right circumstance, it is the loving thing to do. Against love there is no law, but there is a great deal of latitude in how you or I love. God has not always told us exactly what to do. But he has told us to love always.

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