What are we doing?

Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. 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 be guided by the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, competing against one another, envying one another.
Galatians 5:19‭-‬26 NRSV


The deities of Gallatia were famously cruel, says Tom Holland in a podcast (https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/ask-nt-wright-anything/id1441656192?i=1000567526058).

He refers particularly to Cybele the Mother of the Gods whose priests the galli, were eunuchs, males who castrated themselves after a frenzied ceremony and dressed as women thereafter.

Cybele was a protective goddess of Rome, standing for its authority and order. Cybele’s earthly manifestation was Livia, the mother of Roman emperors, deified in AD42 as the Great Mother, the Mother of the Gods.

Why am I bothering to write this? Well it gives a background to Galatians 5 with Paul’s railing against the subversion of the Way of Jesus by both Jewish law and Roman. He equates circumcision to castration. But there’s more. It also calls us to examine the religion we call Christianity.

Paul was a radical and his message was dangerous, foolish and a stumbling block, undermining the judaisers and Roman civil society. Living by the Spirit was revolutionary. And today? Well today I think we need to reconsider the gift we have as people of the Way of Jesus, our seeming slavery to creeds and traditions, and our running after religion.

We are people of the Spirit. Luke reports Jesus to have said to one of his would be followers who appealed to tradition,

… “Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”
Luke 9:60 NRSV


This section of Jesus’s teaching is a preparation in my mind for the realities of being followers of Jesus in a hostile world. His followers were cast out from the synagogues and proclaimed atheists by Roman civil society, considered by some to practice cannibalism, drinking blood and eating flesh.

Jesus alerts us to the power of a people of the Spirit and how religion is not our security. A relationship with the living God is. Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life.

To be plain, we need to examine our traditions and religious practices. When we hear that the son of Cybele, the mother god, was Attis who was mutilated, died and rose again we can see what a threat the story of Jesus was to Rome and its protecting gods. We also need to be alerted to how the later inclusion of Christianity in the Roman cults would have Christianized the practices of the gods of the land and subverted the true message of the kingdom of God wrapping it in alien forms.

The way our churches are organised and their practices owe a lot to the system of paterfamilias of Roman culture. This religious system arguably gave a framework for the spread of Christianity outside the synagog with the church leader taking on the role the father under Roman family law. Some of our ways of being are a throw back to this tradition and are now sanctified by those who wield power. That’s why church services feel so incongruous when held up to the way of Jesus. We have to exercise discernment for our times or become more irrelevant.

We know Pope Gregory, who aimed to Christianise the British Isles, directed that the Anglo Saxan pagan festivals were to be made Christian and churches supplant places of worship, for example Glastonbury.

The origins of some of our ways of being the church, threaten the integrity of the message and are redundant. We need to be wise and faithful to the word of Jesus and keep it simple.

The Breedon Angel

Paul says,

For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another. For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.
Galatians 5:13‭-‬15 NRSV


Let us be free. Let us not be consumed by the arguments and practices that divide, so that we bite and devour one another.

It is time now to be revealed as those whose faith releases us to love not binds us to beliefs.

See the amazing Anglo Saxon Carvings at Breedon, a testimony of the Christianising of the British Isles

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1 Response to What are we doing?

  1. Laird Morris says:


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