Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit that is from God, so that we may understand the gifts bestowed on us by God. 1 Corinthians 2:12
In Roman mythology, Janus was the two-faced god of duality: beginnings and endings, peace and war. Where Romans guessed at this dual nature, Paul relates the true dichotomy between the spirit of this world and the Holy Spirit. This world calls us to selfishness, greed, fear and nativism. It is the spirit of me and mine, first, last and always.
But, as children of God born again into Christ, we are not of that spirit. The Holy Spirit calls us to the selfless Way of the Cross, where we pour out ourselves for the least of these, lift up and care for the stranger, love and seek justice for the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow.
The gifts we receive in this Spirit may not seem like gifts in the spirit of this world. The Spirit calls us to take up our cross, to bear the stripes of this world and love self-sacrificially, to love not only our neighbors but our enemies. In the spirit of this world the weight of the cross is nonsensical and unbearable.
In our true Spirit, the yoke of the cross is easy, the burden light. What we understand in the spirit of this world as suffering becomes, in the Spirit, the light yoke of the cross that draws us closer to Christ and the gift of eternal life in the Kingdom of God.
Unlike Janus, we have only one true nature, which turns from the pain, sin and death of this world to joy, grace and eternal life in Christ. In Paul’s words, from Romans 8:5-6: “Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.”
We can turn our face to death and pain or life and peace. God leaves that choice to us.
Lord Christ, help us to keep our face turned to you, to grace, love and life, and let us not succumb to the temptations of the spirit of this world. Amen.