Today, I want to build on an idea I’ve previously journaled on but not shared publicly: reputation is the essence of the flesh.
I’m referring to the “flesh” talked about in the New Testament. In most places where Paul talks about the flesh versus the spirit, you can understand him to be referring to one’s reputation, not the physical body.
In Galatians 5, Paul describes the fruit of the Spirit: 9 positive characteristics that demonstrate together the manifestation of the Spirit in your life. Since we know that the Spirit is opposed to the flesh, it is a given that the fruit of the flesh, of reputation, is a negative contrast to these qualities.
As I was thinking about this idea one day, my mind jumped to the book of Ecclesiastes. That whole book is a great example of the reasoning of the natural mind, whose origins of thought are based in the land of reputation.
The portion in chapter 3 about there being a time for everything is often interpreted as a balanced view of life, pairing things that have positive associations with things that have negative associations. I think that this section is an example of allowing disappointment to convince you that the mindset of the spirit is imbalanced by itself (big lie!).
Look at how easily you can divide the list in verses 1-8 into competing perspectives between the spirit and the flesh (positive versus negative).
- A time to be born
- A time to plant
- A time to heal
- A time to build up
- A time to laugh
- A time to gather stones
- A time to embrace
- A time to search
- A time to keep
- A time to sew together
- A time to speak
- A time to love
- A time for peace
- A time to die
- A time to uproot what’s planted
- A time to kill
- A time to tear down
- A time to weep
- A time to throw stones
- A time to shun embracing
- A time to give up as lost
- A time to throw away
- A time to tear apart
- A time to be silent
- A time to hate
- A time for war
I’m convinced that the Spirit doesn’t ignore any parts of life or try to sweep them under the rug. However, I think that we often lack knowledge and understanding of God’s intentions about the circumstances we encounter and allow our desire for meaning to give the flesh permission to tutor us on how to interpret the things we don’t understand so that we don’t have to wrestle with mystery.
I believe that this list in Ecclesiastes is excellent raw material for us to reframe the reasoning of the flesh into ideas that give insight and hope into the work of the Spirit based on the knowledge that His intentions are good and are for us rather than against us. Here is my reframing of the negative ideas in verses 1-8:
- A time to be born again
- A time to make room for more planting
- A time to destroy what keeps you from healing
- A time to clear the way for stronger foundations or improvements
- A time to release what keeps you from the laughter of joy
- A time to help others gather
- A time to embrace your independence
- A time to discover new meaning or value
- A time to prioritize freshness
- A time to repurpose and recycle
- A time to speak in a different medium
- A time to focus your love (deep love of one thing is often perceived as hate of another)
- A time to defend healthy boundaries which are the pillars of peace
All negatives in life are really misunderstood positives. The flesh seeks to clarify what we don’t understand according to the assumption that anything hurtful or extreme is probably intended to hurt us. However, the spirit affords us the opportunity to rework our assumptions about these circumstances from the intimate knowledge that God is love and intends to bless us by working all things together for good. Negatives develop from ignorance and short-sightedness; but positives emerge from long-term vision and intimacy with God.