Hildegard von Bingen
Hildegard von Bingen is a twelfth-century German nun and mystic who made significant contributions to a number of fields throughout her lifetime. Her influence touched the areas of art, music, medicine and even politics. In her book, Scivias, Hildegard recorded 26 of her visions: writing them down, exegetically explaining each one, and even illustrating them. Her fourth vision in Scivias has to do with the relationship between one’s body and soul.
In her vision, God says,
“Does not God often send people troubles, so that they will more intently invoke Him? But you, O human, say ‘I cannot do good works!’ I say you can. And you say ‘How?’ And I say, ‘By thought and action.’ And you answer, ‘I lack decision.’ And I answer, ‘Learn to fight against yourself!’”
This brief conversation between God and humanity reveals a challenging idea for Christians: we are meant to fight against our flesh.
Learn to fight against your flesh
It’s not unusual to feel hopeless when faced with what seems like an endless season of trial or maybe a recurring sin. But, in this portion of Hildegard’s vision, God tells us that feeling hopeless is not the answer, and it is certainly not an excuse.
God’s command to learn to fight against ourselves can seem harsh and maybe even a little contradictory, especially when so much of the gospel emphasizes peace and rest in Christ. But in Hildegard’s vision God clearly tells us to roll up our sleeves, grit our teeth, and fight our way through the muddy swamp of sin before us.
On one hand, it is important to remember that we are covered by the grace of Christ and that we do not need to work to attain righteousness before God—nor can we attain righteousness through works, even if we try. However, we also cannot forget that we have the residing Spirit of God within us that is at all times waging war against our sinful and corrupted flesh.
There is a spiritual war of redemption going on inside of us that will not be completed until we die and rise again into new, eternal life with Christ. And while it is crucial to understand that we do not need to (nor can we) fight for our own righteousness or accomplish our own redemption, Hildegard’s vision reminds us that we have power over sin and that God calls us to exercise that power.
Our power over sin
We can rejoice in God’s call to action because it is proof that redemption is real, that God is alive, and that He is working in us every moment of every day. Simply having the ability to consciously fight against the temptation of our flesh is a wondrous declaration that God has called us to a new life in Christ.
So, rather than being overcome by temptation or allowing the guilt of sin to overwhelm you, take hold of the righteousness that Christ has rooted so deeply within you and push forward.
As Hebrews 12:1-2 says,
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and the sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (ESV)