Action Zones 

Reflections for January 

1st January 2021

NEW YEAR RESOLUTION 01-2021At this time of year, when many people are busy making, keeping or breaking, their New Year resolutions, I decided it would be fitting to take a closer look at the phrase ‘self-control’, as it appears several times in the Bible. Does self-control help us to give up sugar, lose weight or do more exercise? Is it the same as will-power?
The starting point for my quest was a quote from the Letter to the Galatians 5:22-23:
The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law
SELF CONTROL 01-2021In Greek there is just one word for self-control: egkrataeia (εγκρ?τεια). It appears about five times in the New Testament, but not in the Gospels. The King James Bible translates this as ‘temperance’
The first use of the word appears in Acts 24:25, where St Paul is speaking to the Roman governor of Caesarea. Here it seems to be linked to a discussion about goodness and the Day of Judgement, so it’s obviously not something to be taken lightly
In the Second Letter of Peter, self-control comes in the middle of a step-by-step plan for what we need to do to live a truly religious life, starting with faith and ending with love.  Self-control really is much deeper than your average New Year’s Resolution
NEW YEAR GOAL 01-2021Paul’s Letter to Titus sets the phrase against negative qualities which should be avoided, such as arrogance, quick-temperedness, drunkeness, violence and greed for money. I am beginning to see that self-control is part of a long and challenging spiritual journey
Self-control in the Old Testament is mentioned in Proverbs. Warning against eating ‘too much honey’ or seeking ‘glory on top of glory’, the writer includes a striking analogy of a person without self-control being like to an ‘open town, without defences’
I have reached the conclusion that self-control is a very wide ranging concept. It does appear to include the stuff of New Year Resolutions such as diet and exercise
However, it also includes far more powerful themes, which, if not checked, could lead to serious harm to ourselves and others
Thankfully, we are not alone in this quest for self-control. The quotation from Galatians, above, is talking about the “fruits of the Spirit”, so it”s not about will-power, but about God-power. “Against such things there is no law”, so it”s not about keeping, or breaking laws, or resolutions. As St Paul puts it in his Second Letter to the Corinthians, it is the “love of Christ [that] controls us”, not ourselves
also published in Parish Life