Debt is a prison. Just ask anyone still paying Federal School Loans. The truth is the modern phenomenon of Student Loans is a ticking time bomb in our economy as more and more people find a sense of hopelessness in ever escaping the burden of paying for higher education.
But a sense of indebtedness isn’t always negative. In fact, one can make the argument that a sense of indebtedness towards other to be kind, to be authentic, to be in communion is a vital aspect of being a true human person. I’ll go even further to say that, for we Orthodox, a sense of indebtedness to love our neighbor as ourselves is the KEY for our faith no just merely surviving, but actually achieving the potential of our Faith on the shores of this nation.
Look at our lesson today in Romans 8:2-13:
BRETHREN, the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set me free from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, indeed it cannot; and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
But you are not in the flesh, you are in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Any one who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although your bodies are dead because of sin, your spirits are alive because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit which dwells in you.
So then, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh-for if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you will live.
St. Paul challenges us today and his Roman Christian audience by describing all of humanity as either “in the Spirit” or “in the Flesh.” And his description of both of these categories is clear and stark.
“In the Flesh” seems to be, to Paul, the whole of life lived by the temporary. It is weak. It is enslaved to the illness and delusion of sin, and it’s end is singular – Death. The taking of the gift of existence and life “in the Flesh” is the ultimate wasting of a huge potential. It is turned in on itself the slavery to the temporary and never escaping the fear of death. Instead, the person “in the Flesh” is motivated by fear and desire and even the slave of fear and desire.
Paul begins the passage by showing WHY Jesus came and died and rose again was to enter fully into this “temporary” delusion of fear, sin, and death and to destroy this spiritual prison from the inside out! And this victory over sin and death makes it possible for we humans to be “in the Spirit.”
Paul says that we are debtors to live “in the Spirit.” In light of the victory of Jesus, we now no longer are enslaved to be “in the Flesh” or enslaved to the temporary. In other words, because of Christ, we don’t HAVE TO live in fear. We are now free, if we will, to live “in the Spirit.” And this being “in the Spirit” means we are ACTIVE in “putting to death” all the activities and actions and priorities that say we are still a slave to the temporary!
Today, are you living “in the Spirit” or “in the Flesh?” It is so difficult to get this straight in our lives, especially if we foolishly fail to embrace the “in the Spirit” life of a lifestyle of being Orthodox on Purpose!