The flesh in scripture is somewhat complex and multifaceted in meaning, depending on its context. Although it can simply mean created bodily entities, in general “flesh” means the weakness of sinful humanity both individually and corporately, the latter in some kind of sytematic way that is under the thumb of the powers, meaning the entities of the devil. The world (as in the world system set against God), the flesh and the devil have aptly in some respects, been called “the unholy trinity.”
I don’t like to get too caught up in flesh/spirit dichotomy, as some teachers of the Christian faith have. At the same time it is important, even vital to keep in mind the importance of us seeking to live (or walk, the metaphor used) in and by the Spirit, so that we don’t fulfill the lusts of the flesh. A passage in scripture lists (some of- unless these are categories which capture all) the works of the flesh, along with the fruit of the Spirit.
I come up empty, or at least rather empty on those days when maybe I have too much caffeine in my system and with all kinds of pressure and problems I rather fairly much depend on myself to get the job done. Of course life can be a struggle, but the difference can be in how we handle it. It may look the same from the outside, at least on a surface level. But inside might be another story. For me one of my biggest struggles is simply to get down. To kind of kick into survival mode, while seeking to do the best I can.
Even so, the Spirit of God does not abandon us when we drift in this way. The Spirit is at work to help us in drawing us to come closer to God through Christ. And to reorientate us into Christ’s likeness. What we need to do which can make all the difference in a day, is to seek to walk by the Spirit. For me this means I need to slow down in my mind and spirit, if not always in my body, though the latter often helps, as well. To be in prayer, praying the prayer Jesus taught his disciples to pray, as well as my own prayers, hopefully prayers the Spirit helps me to pray. And to repeat “the Jesus Creed,” the command to love God and neighbor.
I think too that to walk in the Spirit is relational at its core. The fruit of the Spirit is lived out in relationships, at its heart being love. To love God and our neighbor is its essence.
And following Jesus means to live a cross-formed, or cruciform life. In the same letter, actually the same passage, Paul says that those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. And that since we in Jesus live in the Spirit, we’re to keep in step with the Spirit.
I write here of things I don’t know well enough. But I do know this well enough to believe it, and to prayerfully seek by the Spirit to live it. And I want to do so in community and communion with others in Jesus, and for the world.