Galatians 5 MSG:
23-24 Legalism is helpless in bringing this about; it only gets in the way. Among those who belong to Christ, everything connected with getting our own way and mindlessly responding to what everyone else calls necessities is killed off for good—crucified.
25-26 Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implications in every detail of our lives. That means we will not compare ourselves with each other as if one of us were better and another worse. We have far more interesting things to do with our lives. Each of us is an original.
I love this reminder. So often it can be disappointing to see Christians behaving badly. What I mean is that, we’re not meant to police everyone and everything. There’s a difference between leading people to the light and pushing people into it. There’s a difference between shining the light to guide someone out of darkness and turning a flood light towards everyone and interrogating them with it. I don’t think Christianity was meant to be excessively judgmental and law-abiding. Granted everything we do as new creations in Christ should be a journey into becoming more like Him and behaving better. But I also think people fail to remember grace. Just because we’re saved now doesn’t mean we’re suddenly positioned high enough to look down on others. Or to abuse scripture or laws in order to beat people over the head with it. Or to justify our actions or prove our own righteousness.
I like the fact that the MSG translation talks about being saved as more than a head or a heart thing. God and salvation in general might make sense to you in your mind, and feel good in your heart..but these are still bodily reactions. Because our souls were saved and because that is a matter of our essence–our Spirit— we need to be all in when it comes to God and live it out as opposed to relying only on our feelings or thoughts. These things are fleshy. We need to avoid comparison as well. None of us are on a scale–this isn’t a competition. Each of us have our own lives to walk out–our own journeys with God–our own unique purpose. God knows how long certain sins or habits will take to overcome. Your colleague might not. Your pastor might not. Your bible study leader might not. I think it’s dangerous to rely on the opinions of others in equal measure to the authority of God. God’s word is always true—your human peers’ opinions are not. While I think it is valid to fruit-inspect and not just blindly believe everyone I also think people are going into each other’s orchards with a chain saw. You aren’t responsible for God’s authority and judgement. He is. As it says in the Bible:
Deuteronomy 32:35 MSG:
Don’t you realize that I have my shelves
well stocked, locked behind iron doors?
I’m in charge of vengeance and payback,
just waiting for them to slip up;
And the day of their doom is just around the corner,
sudden and swift and sure.
Ultimately God is the judge. We’re called to be the light. We’re called to spread the good news. I’m not saying you can’t confront but we need to follow Jesus’s way which was to always protect people first, to always be gentle first, and then correct. It’s all in the approach and it’s all a matter of the heart. Are you reacting to someone our of pride? Out of disgust for someone’s actions? Out of judgement? Out of validating your own good works and salvation at the expense of someone else’s? You should always be acting out of love. Easier said than done in some cases—trust me—but it’s something to put as a high priority. Love your neighbor as yourself and love the Lord with all of your heart/soul/mind. Both of these involve being full of the Spirit and relationally sound. I encourage you to focus your attention on filling yourself with as much of God as possible. By being full of Him–You can’t be full of yourself. You are kept in humility and are able to therefore treat others with the same compassion Christ has had for you.
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