Continuing on with our Lenten series in which Saint Augustine is our guide, go here to read the first in the series, we come to Saint Augustine’s comments on sins of the flesh. It is interesting that Saint Augustine begins the passage noting that some argue that the sins of the flesh are not sins, precisely the same argument that is made in our time. Saint Paul mentioned, and refuted, this argument in his epistles, so it is as old as Christianity. The sins of the flesh are not the most dire of sins, rather the reverse, that pride of place going to the sin of pride, a sin I have ever struggled with, and that caused Lucifer to fall from Heaven to Hell. However, sins of the flesh are sins, being a perversion of the love that is at the heart of Christianity. Lust is ever an inadequate substitute for love, and attempting to make it a substitute is at the core of many of our social problems today, treating people as things, means to our own gratification, rather than children of a loving God that we love with fidelity and self-sacrifice, to mirror in our lives some minute fragment of the love that God lavishes on us. Here is Saint Augustine on sins of the flesh:
Let no one say in his heart,
God cares not for sins of the flesh.
Do you not know, says the Apostle,
that you are the temple of God, and the Spirit of God dwells in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him will God destroy.
Let no man deceive himself. But perhaps a man will say,
My soul is the temple of God, not my body, and will add this testimony also,
All flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. Unhappy interpretation! conceit meet for punishment! The flesh is called grass, because it dies; but take heed that that which dies for a time, rise not again with guilt. Would you ascertain a plain judgment on this point also?
Do you not know, says the same Apostle,
that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which you have of God? Do not then any longer disregard sins of the body; seeing that your
bodies are the temples of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which you have of God. If you disregarded a sin of the body, will you disregard a sin which you commit against a temple? Your very body is a temple of the Spirit of God within you. Now take heed what you do with the temple of God. If you were to choose to commit adultery in the Church within these walls, what wickedness could be greater? But now you are yourself the temple of God. In your going out, in your coming in, as you abide in your house, as you rise up, in all you are a temple. Take heed then what you do, take heed that you offend not the Indweller of the temple, lest He forsake you, and you fall into ruins.
Do you not know, he says,
that your bodies (and this the Apostle spoke touching fornication, that they might not think lightly of sins of the body)
are the temples of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which you have of God, and you are not your own? For
you have been bought with a great price. If you think so lightly of your own body, have some consideration for your price.