Addicted to the Flesh
1 Corinthians 3:1-3 I could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ… For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh?
In today’s passage, Paul referred to his audience, being consumed with jealousy and conflict, as people of the flesh. The term flesh, as I understand Paul to have used it, referred not just to the body, but also to the defective human nature attached to the body. Just as we all have a physical body that is imperfect and subject to decay, we also, have a flesh nature that is broken and defective. The Christians to whom Paul wrote here then, were living a life still enslaved to their own defects. They were defined by their flesh nature.
It is easy then, to divide Christians into two groups: those who are living in the flesh, still pursuing greed, status, popularity, sex, drugs or affirmation and those who follow Christ perfectly. The reality of course, is that we all struggle with some defect of the flesh. As long as we live in this defective body, we will all be subject to the gravity of its defective nature. Frankly, we have no end of defect, but this does not mean we must live a life defined by slavery to our defects.
I was reminded recently of my persistent flesh nature. For the past many weeks, I have been changing my diet significantly, cutting out sugars and carbohydrates, and enjoying some success in the results. In my success, I started feeling like maybe I was finally getting ahead of my flesh nature. I’m not using drugs. My weight is coming down. I’m doing pretty well at conquering my defects. Not much left to work on God… Reality came crashing back as my family informed me that, in my dietary change, I had become pretty miserable to live with. Apparently, I was jollier when fatter. I had worked on one defect, only to reveal another.
The temptation then, was to throw my hands up in frustration. I’ll never be free from imperfections, so why keep trying? I guess I will always be enslaved to some defect, so I might as well give up. Christ though, insisted that the normal life of a disciple was a continual process of abandoning self to follow him. If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me (Luke 9:23). The normal Christian life, is to follow Christ despite living with the constant influence of the flesh nature. Jesus and Paul both taught that though we live in the defective flesh, we are not to live enslaved to it.
If I find myself enslaved to my flesh nature, it is my responsibility to do whatever it takes to turn from myself in pursuit of Christ. Because of his sacrificial death, I have a perfect spirit life, in which I am to live continually. I am to live of the spirit, not of the flesh.
The temptation then, is to be fooled into denying the reality of the persistent flesh nature. I am not a Carnal Christian. I am mature and free from defect. Not much to work on here, God… If I find myself in this condition where I do not see my need to daily abandon myself, then I have either attained perfection or I have embraced blinding pride, succumbing to the most heinous of flesh defects. The reality is, I will always live in the gravity of my flesh nature, but because of Christ’s work, if I daily deny self and follow him, I do not need to live addicted to my flesh.