Loving and not Biting

H – Highlight

Galatians 5:13-15 – 13 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.

E – Explain

Paul has just called on the Galatians to turn away from those who are trying to make them subjects under the law once more. There are those who would demand circumcision and proclaim it as necessary for salvation. But Paul wants to be clear that, in Christ, there are no ceremonies or rituals that are required for our salvation. Neither are we honoring God if we return to ceremonies that only pointed to the coming of Jesus.

But then Paul turns the corner, reminding the people that they are now free. And Paul tells them that they must not use their supposed freedom as a license to be cruel to others in the church. The law, summed up, calls us to love.

A – Apply

If I am to honor the Lord, I must love those in the body of Christ, the church. I cannot bite and devour others. I must not allow myself in word or deed to harm others. Yes, I may have to confront unrighteousness. But even as I confront, I can do so in a way that shows that I still love those who are my brothers and sisters in the faith.

R – Response

First, there is an accountability response here. I must watch my words. I must not let myself think or speak of others in such a way as to do them harm. This must be true in my private heart as well as in my public speech. This is why I am so seldom willing to engage in social media controversies.

I may need to add this to my Scripture memory list.

Prayer: Lord, I pray that you will give me love for all in the body of Christ. Yes, help me protect the body from false teaching and sinful actions. Let me not compromise. But help me to always show the love that you command and which so honors you.

Love and Justice in Parallel

What is the longest book in the Bible? Psalms. What is the longest chapter in the Bible? OK, Psalms are not chapters, but individual units; however, Psalm 119 has 176 verses. With such a long Psalm right in the middle of the Bible, there are many things to notice, far more than I grasp in any single reading. Here is a thought that hit me today from late in the Psalm

Psalm 119:149

Hear my voice according to your steadfast love;
O Lord, according to your justice give me life.

Verse 149 catches me for the poetic parallelism. This is a chiastic structure, the four parts of the verse arranged as A, B, B’, A’. “Hear my voice” is a parallel with “give me life.” Clearly David thinks that, as God hears his voice, the result will be life for him.

The center parallels, the B part, are what grabbed me. “According to your steadfast love” is parallel with “according to your justice.” Do you think of those two as synonymous parallel thoughts? Do you attach the justice and the love of God as if they say anything like the same thing? Biblically you should.

In our culture, we love the love of God. We sometimes cringe at the justice of God. WE boldly proclaim the love of God, but we try to hide the justice of God behind our backs like a kid hiding something he does not want mom to see. And when we do this, we are missing the truth of God. The Love of God is a depiction of the perfectly good character of God. Similarly, the justice of God is a depiction of the perfectly good character of God. A God who is not interested in justice is not loving. A God who is not loving will not do justice. May we pray that God will help us see that his justice, his judgment, his proper punishment of sin and his love, his kindness, and his mercy are all part of the same holiness that make us love the Lord.