When I was a police officer, one of the most exciting, most dangerous, and most nerve-racking parts of the job was a high-speed chase! It’s one of the most dangerous experiences of a police officer, but overtaking the car you are chasing isn’t the point. Identifying the car and radioing ahead is all part of bringing a chase to a quick and safe completion. Most of the people I had to chase regretted running because they knew, in the end, they’d be caught.
The truth is being overtaken and caught isn’t a fun experience and it is usually quite costly.
It’s like being overtaken by a temptation. You usually regret being caught by the temptation and succumbing to the sin.
Our passions, our desires, seek to overtake us, catch us, and trap us into feeding them and indulging them. that’s why the Faith teaches us how to tame our passions, our desires, so they remain servants and never our masters. They weren’t meant to master us but to serve us. And when we allow them to master us we fall into addictions and patterns of life that lead us downward. But the virtues strengthen our will to become strong enough to tame our passions. That is the power of the spiritual disciplines of fasting, prayer, and worship. They feed our souls so we are strong enough not to be overtaken by sin.
This way of living is what the Faith is all about.
Look at our lesson today in Galatians 5:22-26; 6:1-2:
Brethren, 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. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Let us have no self-conceit, no provoking of one another, no envy of one another. Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Look to yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
It is significant that St. Paul tells these Galatian Christians to “Look to yourself, lest you be tempted.” It is no mistake because avoiding temptation requires me to be attentive to my brokenness and my tendency to be asleep, until it’s too late, in giving in to temptation. It is knowing myself well enough to see the temptation coming that sets me up to avoid the trap.
St. Paul’s wisdom to the Galatian Church, a church made up of a lot of Gentiles who were not raised with the Laws of the Jews, is that there is an internal formation that matters more! In fact, he insists that the formation of the “Fruit of the Spirit” internally is superior to any lawmaking or external control. He even says after having listed that internal “fruit” of a vibrant relationship with Christ that “there is no law” necessary to those who have embraced this internal character.
But, how does one develop such an internal character? Brace yourselves!
You have to “crucify” yourself! WHAT? Who would do such a thing TO THEMSELVES? Those who humbly accept the reality of a life lived free from the addictions of the passions and desires. Look at all the lawbreakers in our society. They seem to believe what they want is more important than peace or their neighbor’s desires. They are so undisciplined in their inner life that they allow their desires to master them. They are a slave to their wants. They are not free. They need external disciplines from society to control them because they refuse or can’t control themselves. What a horrible and infantile life! Demanding a false freedom to seek to indulge my passions is no freedom at all.
But those who willingly “crucify” (that means actively kill) their desires and passions because they are following Jesus, need no external controls to govern their lives. They are the masters of their desires, not slaves.
Those who have these desires and passions controlled and disciplined are able to help those around them and even restore their brethren who have “lost control” of their desires. A person who has “crucified” their desires and learned, through the wisdom of the lifestyle of the Faith, to master their passions is a source of strength, peace, harmony, and joy to the whole world. Conversely, those who remain slaves to their passions are the source of dissension, fighting, and childish addiction in society.
No law is necessary IF you continue doing the work to submit yourself to God in Christ and allow the wisdom of the Faith to change your lifestyle. The Orthodox faith is precisely the perfect “science” of the soul to transform you so that you don’t need rules to live a righteous life. You already have had your desires transformed so that you WANT God above all other desires.
St. Savas is called “the Sanctified.” He was born in the year 439 AD in Cappadocia. He was dedicated to spiritual disciplines even as a young child and sought to train his own soul through the wisdom of the Faith to have his desires in perfect sync with the will of God. He became a “master trainer” of other monks and even tutored the great St. Euthymius, who was himself known as the “teacher of the desert.” He was called the “Sanctified” because he dedicated his life to living the Faith and not merely talking about it. St. Savas was appointed the archimandrite (the leader) of the monastic communities in Palestine. He defended the Orthodox Faith at the Council of Chalcedon. St. Savas lived to be 94 years old and fell asleep in the Lord peacefully in 533 AD! The very order of our church services through the Christian Year had its beginning in St. Savas’ monasteries.
Today, are you crucifying your passions and desires, or are you indulging them? Are you able to live your life free from necessary external controls because you are still addicted to your passions? Know that the fruit of the Spirit grows in the lives of those who willingly humbly and purposefully embrace the disciplines of the Normal Orthodox Faith to see the character of Jesus created in them. Tame your passions by the wisdom of the Faith and watch as the fruit of the Spirit grows in your life!
P.S. With the rivers of your tears, you have made the barren desert fertile. Through sighs of sorrow from deep within you, your labors have borne fruit a hundred-fold. By your miracles, you have become a light shining upon the world. O Savas, our Holy Father, pray to Christ our God, to save our souls.