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On Licentiousness. . . and Life in the Spirit


“Arbitrary power is most easily established on the ruins of liberty abused to licentiousness.” ~ George Washington

As a lover of words, it caught my attention this morning in today’s 1st Reading (Galatians 5:18-25) when Saint Paul urges the people of Galatia to avoid, among other things ~ impurity, sorcery, jealousy and “drinking bouts” all made the list ~ the sin of licentiousness. That’s just not a word you hear very often; not then, not now.

Webster’s defines a licentious person as one who islacking legal or moral restraint“ . . . “especially: disregarding sexual restraints. Marked by disregard for strict rules of correctness.” Given the anything goes mindset as it relates to sex in today’s culture, perhaps that’s why this word is rarely used. Could being licentious actually be viewed instead as virtuous in the celebrity-obsessed, porn-addicted, Instagram Bikini Model culture that prevails? Norman Rockwell once said “In my day, everyone expected that art students were wild, licentious characters. We didn't know how to be, but we sure were anxious to learn.“ Norm would have access to a large army of teachers in the year 2020.

Paul encourages the Galatians to instead pursue a life rooted in the fruits of the Holy Spirit; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. He then goes on to make a very interesting statement. “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified their flesh with its passions and desires.” So what does this mean, to be crucified with Christ?

Paul explores this notion often throughout Scripture, perhaps most famously in his 2nd Chapter of his Letter to the Galatians (2:20) when he says “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” He also discusses it in Colossians 2:20 and 3:3 and 2 Timothy 2-11, with an extended discourse on this teaching found in Romans 6:3-14.

The Holy Spirit has the power to transform our lives. In leaving behind the ways of our sinful past to instead pursue the fruits of the Spirit ~ love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control ~ we choose a life that is rooted in the Spirit.

A life in the Spirit is offered to all those who choose to follow Jesus, to carry their cross and seek God’s will in his or her life. Knowing that we are “crucified with Christ” should give us great encouragement in our Christian walk. We have the power to say no to sin and yes to God, the loving author of eternal life who loves and fights for his children.

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That beats licentiousness every time.

“Oh Holy Spirit, You are the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity. You are the Spirit of truth, love and holiness, proceeding from the Father and the Son, and equal to Them in all things. ... Fill our hearts with your gifts, and we will renew the face of the Earth.” ~ Amen

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