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original cover art for Studies on Homosexuality and the Church

 

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Study Four: The Spirit as Ethical Power and Norm
The Spirit provides the motivation as well as the energy and norm for ethical action. Paul distinguishes carefully between "works of the flesh" (Galatians 5:18–21) and the "fruit of the Spirit" (Galatians 5:22–23). In that context he makes it clear that the active agent is the Spirit, not human will or strength. If there is any good in what we do, it is to the credit of the Spirit who works within us, both to will and to do what is good.

Thus the Spirit opens up a whole new world of opportunity which the law cannot restrict (Galatians 5:23b "against such things there is no law"). Thus Christians are called upon to let the Spirit guide them and energize them to do what is appropriate under ever new conditions and circumstances.

The fruit of the Spirit has clearly recognizable features. The guidelines are specific without being precise. "Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22f.), these are the world-embracing parameters within which the Spirit's power unfolds.

Paul leaves it to the Christian community, guided as it is by the Holy Spirit, to decide what in any given circumstance may constitute the course of love and faithfulness. Paul can trust the Body of Christ to determine what in a given situation may be honorable, just, pure, pleasing, commendable, excellent or worthy of praise (Philippians 4:8).

Before one can hope to act in a morally responsible manner, one must have an adequate understanding of the facts of the matter. Only when one understands the situation can one hope to be able to determine the pastorally appropriate and necessary course of action. Christians need to inform themselves about all aspects of the subject before presuming to give a biblical as well as a pastoral response to the moral questions we face.

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