We were in the midst of Measure For Measure. Each day I’d read just a little bit and then close the book at some pivotal moment to a chorus of “MAMA! Don’t stop! Please read more!” It was fresh on our minds, and across the table we were having rigorous discussions of a nature that would make a Puritan blush. (By the way, did you know that the Pilgrims who landed at Plymouth were not actually Puritans? They were Separatists. But I digress.)
“My goodness,” I said to my husband. “We’re talking about sex in the frankest manner. Sexual immorality, cohabitation, lust, jealousy; purity, love, honor…”
I found myself increasingly grateful to Sir William: here he’d spun a tale so hilarious and serious–and so full of blatant sin–yet had done so in such a way that mocked and exposed the sin in all its foolishness. Even my children comprehended in their deepest little hearts the conflict of the ages, and truth of good and evil.
It was with Lord Angelo’s wandering heart tucked into the back of my mind that I soaked in Paul’s words to the Galatians one balmy May morning:
So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whateverc you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.
Against the backdrop of Shakespeare, Scripture came alive. I saw the characters of Measure For Measure in each of the virtues and vices penned by Paul, and so after breakfast I read the passage to the children.
Then, while the kids piddled at math, I wrote the “Acts of The Flesh” and the “Fruit of The Spirit” on two separate sheets of paper. We took to a dictionary to help define the words, and then the kids started to laugh.
“Man, sexual immorality, that’s like what Measure For Measure is about!” they said. So then they ran down the list. “Let’s see… Lord Angelo… sexual immorality, yep. Impurity, yep. Sensuality? Uh-huh. Idolatry? OF COURSE. Sorcery? Well, I guess he didn’t do that…”
And they ran Isabella through the same analysis: “Love? Definitely. Patience? Uh-huh. Kindness? Goodness? Man, she possessed all these things…”
As they tested each character against the Scriptures, I could see the import and meaning of those Scriptures searing into their minds. We hung the papers on the wall, and over the next few days referenced them again and again. The “acts of the flesh” began to be categories into which we’d throw our own little sins. The “fruit of the spirit” began to be the virtues after which we ourselves would strive.
A little bit of Shakespeare. A generous dash of Paul. And as ever, the teensiest bit of leaven leavens the whole lump of dough.