Two Worlds; Worlds Apart

earthYesterday, on this blog, I wrote that there are essentially two opposing narratives of infinity. One narrative is that violence (tyranny, greed, aggression, etc.) is inescapably at the foundation of every thing. The other narrative is that there is love and a peaceable kingdom, and ultimately “a particular rabbi from Nazareth” at the heart of all things. St. Paul made a list of the characteristics of these two kingdoms in his letter to the Church in Galatia. He refers to one kingdom as the law / flesh and the other as the Spirit / freedom.

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 prevent you from doing what you would. Galatians 5:17

Now the works of the flesh are plain: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, party spirit, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before that those who do such things shall not inherit the Kingdom of God. Galatians 5:19-21

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Galatians 5:22-24

The kingdom of the flesh is what was used to tempt Jesus after he fasted 40 days. The devil tried to entice him to take matters in his own hands and not trust the Father nor the Father’s Kingdom. Satan pushed him to consider making bread out of stones when hungry, grab transitory earthly power over all kingdoms of the world and to cast himself off the pinnacle of the temple in Jerusalem. All these temptations were violent and all were desires of the flesh.

The very next scene Jesus is the temple in Nazareth and he reads the prophet Isaiah, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.” All are peace and love and ultimately are centered on “a particular rabbi from Nazareth.”

There are two  opposing narratives; two opposing kingdoms. Again (and I know I just used this quote 2 days ago), as Augustine remarks, “it is what one loves – what one desires – that determines to what city one belongs.”



Filed under Contemplation, Scripture Rumination

5 responses to “Two Worlds; Worlds Apart

  1. Demetrios1

    Isn’t it the fallen nature of the flesh that is in opposition to the spirit, not flesh itself? Were not Adam and Eve flesh and spirit – and until they disobeyed – they were to live eternal?

    We were not made in the likeness of God, which would have to mean that our natural nature is to be as he is – pure?

    • Fr. James Coles

      Yes, you are right. But St. Paul makes no distinction in his letter. We know that we are at war with the world, the flesh and the devil – all fallen.
      I think you meant to say that we ARE made in the likeness of God. Saint Paul is describing things as they are and not as they were intended to be. I certainly do not mean to confuse. The distinction you are making is helpful and true.

      • Mat

        I once heard this on an Orthodox podcast, and wanted to bring it up here. The podcast explained that since we were created in the image and likeness of God, we don’t have a “fallen (or sinful) nature” as thought of by Protestants. We have a tendency to sin, but it is not in our nature, as we still have kind of a “blurred” likeness to God. Maybe I misunderstood what the podcast was saying, but I think that was the gist of it.

  2. Lenore

    Augustine’s comment reminds me of the “two wolves” Cherokee story: “It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.” He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”

    The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”

    The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

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