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Seventh Sunday after Pentecost — July 16, 2023

Tara W. Bulger reflects on how Christians are to deal with "people-ee" people.

Romans 8:1-11
Year A

I have a good friend who often says, with a sigh and shake of the head, “Ugh. Sometimes people are so … people-ee.” I love this expression. It is a tongue-in-cheek acknowledgment that people often bother and challenge us by doing nothing more than being themselves. People are so people-ee, indeed.

I recently found myself interacting with someone who challenged me. While they were being themselves, they stepped on my toes and angered me at every turn. I had many long conversations with this person in my head about how they could change and what they could do to make things right. I spent more time than I am comfortable sharing with you ruminating on setting this person straight.

This person’s actions weighed heavily on me until, one morning in my devotion time, I realized I no longer had the luxury of meditating on their faults. I certainly did not have the luxury of sharing my anger with them. I could not do these things because Christ reminded me that I was called to live by a different ethic, one marked by forgiveness and reconciliation. In Christ, we are called to a new way of living; more than that, we are empowered to live out this new ethic by the Spirit.

Just before this passage in Romans, Paul wrote several chapters about the reality of life under sin or “in the flesh.” In the time before the gift of Christ, people were ruled by the law and the never-ending search for righteousness before God. The law could never be perfectly carried out, resulting in humanity being enslaved by sin. Never free from sin, it informed all they were. The ethic people lived by, in the flesh, was one in which sin had ultimate control.

After the gift of Christ, and Christ’s liberating work of the cross, Paul writes that we can now live “in the Spirit.” Being freed from the law and its consequences gives humanity a new possibility — to live in such a way that the values of Christ become our own. With the prospect of condemnation now removed by Christ, there is freedom and a new way of being. This new way of life is powered by the Spirit, which enables us to be transformed in all that we are. The very Spirit of God is now alive inside us and empowers us to live more fully as the persons God has called us to be. As Paul puts it, God “will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you” (Romans 8:11).

What does it mean to be given this life? It means we are empowered and enlivened by a new way of doing things. Paul knows that sin still has power in the world, but we are no longer enslaved by it. We can live in the way of Christ instead, with the Spirit’s help.

An ethic is the moral values or principles guiding one’s decisions and actions. To live into Christ’s ethic is to be open to the Spirit’s leading. We believe that our salvation has meaning and that the Spirit is still at work in the world, guiding, leading, and strengthening us for our decisions and actions.

To live by Christ’s ethic means that the Spirit may show up when you least expect it and call you to live more faithfully. The Spirit may even show up in your devotion time, guiding you to let go of your frustration in favor of forgiveness. The Spirit may even remind you that you are a people–ee person too.

Questions for reflection:

  1. On a day-to-day basis, what are your decisions and actions most formed by? Concern for self? Or the Spirit of God?
  2. Look over your day. In what ways could you be open to the possibility of doing things in a new way? Ask the Spirit to guide you to new solutions and actions.

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