One day in middle school, I was finishing up P.E. when my coach pulled me aside and asked me if I wore deodorant. Apparently a teacher whose class I had post-P.E. each day)had mentioned something to him about my B.O. Yeesh! I guess my personal hygiene was worse than I had realized. How embarrassing!
When it comes to our spiritual hygiene, we’re all in an equally yucky place. Let’s face it: our flesh stinks. And I’m not talking about the flesh that got me in trouble as a 13-year-old. I’m talking about the flesh that Paul mentions in his letter to the Galatians:
Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these.
— Galatians 5:19–21
These little stinkers make my middle school dilemma seem downright rosy. While Paul includes in his list some of the most malodorous vices that we as Christians like to speak against (e.g., sexual immorality, adultery, idolatry and drunkenness), he also slips in a few silent-but-violent ones that our spiritual noses might not catch a whiff of quite so easily, such as rivalries, dissensions and divisions. This explains why racism is still an ongoing issue in America and throughout the world.
While my middle school problem was quickly solved with a heavier dose of deodorant, our spiritual condition is not so easily remedied. But there is a remedy:
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.
— Galatians 5:16–17
Paul is saying that, even though divisions and rivalries may be our default, they are not our destiny. The Spirit himself enables us to live a completely different lifestyle, with a much sweeter scent:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
— Galatians 5:22–23
The first three fruits alone — love, joy and peace — are enough to put a dagger in the heart of racism. Who, filled with these things, has any room for racism? When there is peace, where is there division? Add in a potpourri of patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control, and you don’t have division. You have community.
While education, training and campaigns might help stifle the stench of racism, there is really only one solution that can truly eliminate its foul odor. Are you ready to listen to your Coach and follow his advice?