Flesh vs the Spirit: An Allegorical Conversation

“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” (Galatians 5:16)

Flesh: Listen to your heart. Be true to yourself. Identify yourself with your sexual desires and do not let yourself be denied. Sex with the one you love even outside covenant boundaries shall bring you joy and intimacy. You shall not die but find sensual pleasure, visual delights, and personal fulfillment.

Spirit: The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? For from within the hearts of men come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, debauchery, envy, slander, arrogance, and foolishness. All these evils come from within, and these are what defile a man.

Spirit: You say, “Come, let us take our fill of love till morning; let us delight ourselves with love.” With much seductive speech you persuade, and with your smooth talk you compel. Yet listen to wisdom and do not let the heart turn aside to your ways and do not let the heart stray into your path for your house is the way to Sheol, going down to the chambers of death.

Flesh: Stop being so paternalistic. Have you not considered that I have been treated as a second-class citizen and that I deserve to be treated as well as those society has long normalized?

Spirit: There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.

Flesh: You say that, but when my desires are denied, I as a person feel denied, and how can that be good for me? So-called conversion therapy is ineffective and/or harmful, and there have been studies that found links to depression, suicidality, anxiety, social isolation and decreased capacity for intimacy. And only one study concluded that sexual orientation change efforts could succeed albeit only in a minority of its participants, and the study has several limitations: its entire sample self-identified as religious and it is based on self-reports, which can be biased and unreliable.

Flesh: You might propose that I depress same-sex arousal through severe techniques but that will not translate into increased heterosexual arousal or ability to sustain a satisfying opposite-sex sexual relationship.
Overall, there is powerful evidence that trying to change a person’s sexual orientation can be extremely harmful. Do you not know that the overwhelming consensus among psychologists and psychiatrists who have studied conversion therapy or treated patients who are struggling with their sexual orientation is that therapeutic intervention cannot change sexual orientation, a position echoed by all major professional organizations in the field, including the American Psychological Association?

Spirit: Remember the words of your Lord Jesus who says, “Follow Me, and let the dead bury their own dead.” Remember also that Jesus says, ” “If anyone wants to come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.” It is not enough to simply deny yourself, but you must replace the idol you give up with the true joy of worshiping the One True God in Christ Jesus by the Holy Spirit. The opposite of homosexuality is not heteronormativity but holiness. Find your joy not in heterosexual relationships but in a vibrant abiding relationship with the Lord. It will not do you well to replace one sensual idol with another sensual idol. How can you fight the flesh with the flesh? You must fight by the immaterial Spirit, who points you to Christ Jesus.

Spirit: Consider how even heterosexual couples who live outside the boundaries of a marriage covenant are in the same danger as you and may still find themselves unhappy and unfulfilled. It is a great lie of the prevailing culture that sexual relations must lead to intimacy. Is it not possible to have sex without intimacy and intimacy without sex? If it is possible to have intimacy without sex, it is possible to lead a fulfilling human life without sexual relations.

Spirit: Whether you carry same-sex attraction or heterosexual attraction, you have forsaken God, the fountain of living water, and have dug your own cistern, a broken cistern that cannot hold water.  I would redeem you, but they speak lies against me. You may say because you are an atheistic secular humanist, my words do not apply to you. To whom is God trying to teach? To whom is He explaining His message? To infants just weaned from milk? To babies removed from the breast? For they hear: “Order on order, order on order, line on line, line on line, a little here, a little there.” Indeed, with mocking lips and foreign tongues, He will speak to this people to whom He has said: “This is the place of rest, let the weary rest; this is the place of repose.” But they would not listen.

Spirit: You are dead in the trespasses and sins in which you walk, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience among whom you live in the passions of the flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and are by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. You spurn words that offer you life but this truth still remains and abides: “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

Flesh: How can I believe in the immaterial? All I see are facts, science, reason, and logic. Your words mean nothing to me.

Spirit: The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” You are corrupt, you do abominable deeds; there is none who does good. You would dare set the body against the soul in such a rebellious idolatrous manner, not knowing your Creator has made the one as well as the other. Do you not know that the heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork? Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth; for the LORD has spoken: “Children have I reared and brought up, but they have rebelled against me. The ox knows its owner, and the donkey its master’s crib, but Israel does not know, my people do not understand.”

Spirit: The creation gives glory to the Creator, but even though you are made in His image, you do not give God the glory due His name. In prioritizing your body and the material to the neglect of your soul, you imperil your soul. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?  If anyone is ashamed of Jesus and His words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your heart as in the rebellion.”

Spirit: “Yet even now,” declares the LORD, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments.” Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster.

Flesh: Even so, these biblical words are throwing our communities into turmoil by promoting attitudes and ideas that are not helpful for us as a diverse, inclusive, cosmopolitan, egalitarian secular society to adopt or practice.

Spirit: Though people know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. And in this context of stubborn rebellion, Christ comes into the world, saying, “Do not assume that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword,” as he entered into the midst of a world that lies in the power of the evil one.

Spirit: The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. Remember the words of the Lord Jesus: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

Spirit: Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? You are a slave of sin, free in regard to righteousness. But what fruit are you getting at this time from the things of which you should be ashamed? For the end of those things is death.

Flesh: No, I shall not die. I shall cast off restraint and pursue all that is in the world – the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life. Bend the knee to the secular sexual orthodoxy and residency doors shall open for you and society shall respect you as an equitable, compassionate and caring healthcare provider.

Spirit: Know that the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. Choose to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. Consider the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Vanity Fair, and look to the reward.

Flesh: Again your words have no effect on me, I do not subscribe to the religious context of which you speak and my passions are too strong for me to deny.

Spirit: Is anything too hard for the LORD? Is not He who raised Lazarus from the grave able to raise unrepentant sinners up from their grave of sin into newness of life into Him who for their sake died and was raised? God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loves you, even when you are dead in your trespasses, makes you alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved – and raises you up with him and seats you with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

Spirit: Thanks be to God, that you who were once a slave of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you have committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. For when the Lord Jesus says “Repent and believe in the Gospel,” this command carries within it the power to carry out said command. And consider: Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

Spirit: Now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Flesh: Even so I refuse to submit to the rule of the LORD. I would much rather do things my way, make a covenant with death, and with Sheol I have an agreement, when the overwhelming whip passes through it will not come to me, for I have made lies my refuge, and in falsehood I have taken shelter. I would rather make an idol of my own choosing even though it cannot deliver me and becomes a burden I must bear and carry.

Spirit: Therefore thus says the LORD, the God of hosts: “Because you have spoken this word, behold I am making my words in your mouth a fire, and this person wood, and the fire shall consume you.” But why should you perish? You cry to your idol, yet it does not answer or save you from your trouble. Listen to me, you who are made in my image, who have been borne by me from before your birth, carried from the womb; even to your old age I am he, and to gray hairs I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save.

Spirit: Repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. God will pour his love into your heart through the Holy Spirit who has been given to you. He will make known to you the path of life; in his presence there is fullness of joy; at his right hand are pleasures forevermore.