On Crucifying the Passions

“We read that ‘the flesh is weak,’ and thereby soothe our conscience at times. Yet, we also read that ‘the spirit is strong’ (Matthew 26:41). For both expressions occur in the same sentence. Flesh is an earthly material. Spirit is a heavenly one. Why then are we so prone to make excuses for ourselves? Why do we offer our weak part as our defense? Should we not rather look to our strong part? Why shouldn’t it be that the earthly yields to the heavenly? Since the spirit is stronger than the flesh, being of a nobler origin, it is our own fault if we follow the weaker of the two.” -Tertullian

I read a great message the other day. It was a story of a priest who was offered a cigarette. The priest graciously refused and the person who offered it to him asked if he considered smoking to be a sin. After trying unsuccessfully to persuade him to have a cigarette, the man finally stopped and the priest said, “each time you go to light a cigarette, repeat the Lord’s prayer first.” The man replied “praying before having a smoke somehow doesn’t work,” to which the priest replied, “so, better not to start anything that cannot be preceded by untroubled prayer.” It was such a great message to me, because so often, we approach life considering the weaknesses that we have, rather than the strength that we have access to. So many times, we fall victim to the passions of the flesh because rather than focusing on the power to resist those passions that we have in the Holy Spirit, we focus on the excuses that would lead us into those very passions. In accepting our weaknesses, we actually glorify them. The enemy finds that we already have our excuse planned out and he exploits it by making the excuse the central point in the spiritual battle.

Imagine, though, if we were to keep the Spirit as the central point of the struggle instead. Imagine if we, like the priest above, preceded each action with prayer, which would set our minds on the Lord and keep our minds focused on the Him rather than whatever sin we are about to commit. Consider how meditating on the Lord being crucified for our sins would help us to crucify those sins themselves, those passions that can lead us to fall.

Consider how, rather than giving the power to the weakness of the flesh, we should instead follow the guidance of the Spirit, which is the stronger of the two. Rather than approaching any situation focusing on the excuses for our failures, perhaps we should begin to enter those situations focusing on the strength that can prevent us from failing.

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