Read Galatians 5:15-25
Scientists speak of entropy as a unit which allows them to measure the degradation of a system. Popular authors turn it into a principal: that the whole world is decomposing, sliding into an undifferentiated state. Entropy is the rust that attacks us, old age creeping up on us, fire reduced to embers, time fleeing. Entropy means everything comes to an end.
We could speak of an analogous principle in the spiritual life. Left to oneself, the human person degrades, turning in on oneself in self-sufficiency and deadly selfishness. The human community is dislocated, divided, at war. Human hope is darkened by visions of unending strife, irreversible injustices, unsolvable ecological and economic crises.
What is astounding in such a context is not that there should be evil in the world, but that the world should continue to spin in spite of all this evil. What surprises is not the existence of hatred and jealousy, but the fact that love manages to surge forth and make a path for itself. There must be another principle at work here, a dynamism more powerful than the moral entropy Paul names sin. This greater power is the Holy Spirit.
Without the Spirit, men and women are carried away in a spiral of hatred and violence: "an eye for an eye, and the whole world goes blind." Such an evil-spawning spiral can only lead to the plethora of vices Paul lists in today's text, expressed powerfully in Eugene Peterson's translation: "loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community." This is a living hell that, sadly, too many people know too well.
Jesus-Christ came to reverse this deadly movement, to smother this fatal tsunami. He came to release in our hearts a new power, a new breath. Under the influence of his Spirit, something new is coming to birth. The inertia that grinds us down is overcome, the death-dealing spiral is undone. A hand is stretched out in friendship across borders, a word of peace resonates in the silences of hatred, an act of kindness warms frigid solitude. And the beautiful virtues Paul rejoices in naming can flower: love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, trust, tenderness, self-control.
We recognize the Spirit alive within us every time we surprise ourselves into forgiving, sharing, praying for someone who no longer knows how to pray. The Spirit dwells within those moments that awaken within us a gesture of friendship, a word of kindness, an act of generosity. The Spirit awakens us to a world make for transformation in beauty, truth and gratefulness.
Are we of this Spirit? The choice is ours. We need only open our hearts.