Scripture Reading: Galatians 5 (NRSV)
There are many times when I've preached about greed or hypocrisy or love or forgiveness and then have failed to live up to the standards I proclaim. But I don't quit preaching them because they are true regardless of our abilities to fulfill them daily.
With this in mind, we see Paul continue to share with the churches of Galatia concerning the Christians from Jerusalem who believe that they should conform to Jewish religious custom such as circumcision. Paul is disregarding this ancient sign not because he thinks it is evil but rather because he doesn't want it prioritized over Christ. It is in Christ that we embody the discipline of love.
Just as the prophets of old despised the outward appearance of religious adoration (when it was false or self-serving), this teaching was epitomized within what it means to live "in Christ."
So Paul lists today what is to be avoided and he lists what is to be followed. I find that I try to emulate the Fruit of the Spirit through daily prayer to begin my day. I don't always get them right but when I set the bar higher, I make strides to get there.
So as Paul continues in his arguments against those teaching the Galatians to capitulate to their traditions, we see his frustration erupt in verse twelve where he states, "I wish those who unsettle you would castrate themselves!"
It is almost that he recognizes his own slip as he writes in verse 15, "If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another."
He speaks of avoiding the works of the flesh like enmities, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, and envy. One might say, "Do as I say, not as I do."
Then he speaks of emulating patience, gentleness and self-control.
Rather than see Paul as a hypocrite, I find it helpful. Paul got frustrated just like I do! But he still holds to a better way. He reminds us, "let us be guided by the Spirit."
This is a reminder we may need daily as we seek to be the best Christians we can be.
Prayer for the day:
Gracious God, make me more loving today - in both giving and receiving love. Give me the ability to find and sow joy each day. May I have peace of mind, body and spirit, such that I become a peacemaker to conflict I encounter. Help me to be kinder to my neighbor in my thoughts and deeds. Grant me a more generous spirit in my perceptions of others so that I may be more ready to share the resources you have entrusted to me. May I be faithful in my daily walk with you, O God, as I seek to love you and my neighbor more fully as Christ has bid me. And as I do trod upon this earth, may I do so gently, leaving places and situations better than I found them. And when those things that are adverse to your Spirit rise up in me, give me the self control to pause and find a better path. I pray these things in the name of Jesus Christ, who breathed the Holy Spirit upon us. Amen.
Photo by Paula R. Lively via Flickr.com. Used under the Creative Commons license.
All scripture quoted is from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.