Saturday, November 07, 2015

Study of Galatians 6:1-10

Instead of looking at all three passages in the book this week I am just going to look at the first one, Galatians 6:1-10, because I realized it is really a core passage about service to the church, the community, and the world. 

Let me start with this video that I think wraps up what this passage is talking about. 


This week I had a run in with a student where she was rude.  She told me basically I didn’t know what I was teaching.  One way to be rude and insulting to a college professor is to say they don’t know their subject matter, which is kind of dumb because we spend our lives studying what we teach.  We have a lot of flaws.  The longer I work in a college the more I think college professors have a lot of dysfunctions and nuttiness, and some of us are not good teachers, but we do know our subject; that is the first qualification.

So I was pretty annoyed and trying to not write a nasty email back, but then the Lord reminded me of  this video.  I don’t know what is totally going on in the student’s life.  She has no right to be rude but I have a responsibility to respond with a bigger view of her than someone who is annoying me.  Everyone of us is a very complex person with lots of problems, past, and things going on, so it is in everyone’s best interest to just stop, check our impatience, and recalibrate ourselves by looking through some special glasses.

This Friday I had the opportunity to go to a training about suicide prevention for college students but it ended up being a lot more, I think partially a counseling session for the two of us who attended.   It was life-changing for me and a reminder that our main purpose here is to connect with people.

Galatians 6:1-10 is in the middle of a book that can sometimes be pretty harsh.  The apostle Paul is having to deal with legalism, but it’s a different type of legalism than what we think of.  We usually think of legalism as some type of behavior that we should not do if we are Christians, but legalism is deeper than that.  Any time we think we can manipulate God and go around grace by doing something, we are being legalistic.  Paul’s audience was being led astray by Jewish teachers trying to get them to follow the Jewish law but even worse not believe that grace is enough. 

In Galatians 5 Paul says there are works of the flesh and fruit of the Spirit.  All of us can name those fruit of the Holy Spirit, even if not in order.  There are nine, and I have heard lots of sermons on how some are about our relationship to God and some are about our relationship with others, and so on.  I think the main thing is that we see these characteristics are not something we work up by ourselves, but can only come through allowing the Holy Spirit to work in us and produce them.  I know I am not patient by myself.  I can say “Barbara, slow down,” but real patience, waiting on God’s timing and not rushing ahead, only comes from him. 

So after discussing the fruit of the Spirit, we come to Galatians 6. 

Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.

This is an incredible verse, when you look at it:  The first type of service is service to fellow Christians who have “been overtaken in a trespass.” 
a.     if a man is overtaken – that means it happens.  That means Christians sin and get into trouble. 
b.     You who are spiritual.  We might say, “I don’t know if I am spiritually mature or spiritual.”  Paul says you are supposed to know.  This is not a level that you have reached by your own effort, or time as a Christian, or by your job in the church.  You are either led by the spirit and have your mind on spiritual things, or you don’t.  If you do, you have a responsibility to consider restoring another person to fellowship with the rest of the church.
c.     Restore.  The other usage of this word is in Matthew 4:21.   Present active imperative of katartizw, the very word used in Matthew 4:21 of mending nets,
Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them.
It is from an old word to make artio, fit, to equip thoroughly.
Restore means to bring back into usefulness in the body of Christ.  It doesn’t mean you have to be a therapist with a long education and credentials in psychology.  It is a very practical word.  But what does it look like to restore  someone? It is still hard and intricate work, just like mending nets. 
d.     in a spirit of gentleness, not judgment.
e.     Considering yourself, lest you also be tempted.  Three sides to this:
1.     you could be tempted to be proud since you are “spiritual” and “restoring”
2.     you could be tempted to be careless and go back into a sin you have a problem with
3.     You could be tempted to get involved in the sin of the person you are helping.  All of these are real possibilities, so being led by the spirit is really important. 
Thoughts?  Have you been an agent of restoration?  What was that like? 

2 Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
            The phrase “law of Christ” is only used a couple of times in Paul, so we have to dig deeper to see what it means. 
1.     First, it is distinct from the law of the Pharisees, which of course was a law of bondage.  
2.     Second, when Jesus was asked about the greatest commandment, what did he say?  So that is the law of Christ, those two commandments.  Very basic, but very radical. 
a.     Instead of  a list of specific behaviors, it focuses on the heart.
b.     Instead of being descriptive and proscriptive, it gives the individual freedom to apply the commandment himself—no automatic pilot; you have to think it through!
c.     Because it is so sweeping, everything falls under it and you can’t argue that a certain experience or situation doesn’t apply. 
d.     Example:  in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “if someone compels you to carry his load one mile, carry it two.”  This is where we get the expression “go the extra mile.”  If you are going to restore someone, you are carrying his burdens and going the extra mile, but the picture is the person accompanies you.

John Piper (Desiring God website) says:

That is why, even though Christ's law is more radical than the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, he can say, "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light" (Matthew 11:28–30). The law of Christ is not easy because it's greasy, or permissive. It is easy because when we are weak, he is strong. It's easy because he produces the fruit of love: "I am crucified with Christ, it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me" (2:20). Christ never commands us to do anything that he wants us to do on our own. Therefore, every command in the law of Christ is a call to faith. Through faith God supplies the Spirit of Christ (Galatians 3:5); through the Spirit we produce the fruit of love (5:22); through love we fulfill the law of Christ (6:2). Therefore, if you trust him, you will fulfill his law of love. You will devote yourself to lifting the burdens of others.

The next three verses are a little confusing, maybe seem contradictory.  They deal with the heart and mind attitudes behind verses 1 and 2.  You might think of this as service to oneself, self-care.  We talk about work-life balance because it is so easy to get too deeply into work.  This is about self-care in the spiritual realm of restoration and service. 

3 For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.

4 But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another.

5 For each one shall bear his own load.

First, don’t be self-deceptive.  Do not go into the service to others, especially of restoration, with the idea of thinking yourself more than you are.  Be aware, examine your own work. 

Secondly, don’t compare yourself with others.  There is a strong principle called social proof that controls us more than we think.  There is a famous research example of the study where seminary students were going to preach a sermon on the Good Samaritan but they walked past a person on the street in the same situation.  Also, the more other people are around, the less likely someone is to help.  Going with the flow.  Our point of comparison is never other people, only Christ.

Third, is there a difference between load in v. 5 and burden in v. 2?  They are different words, but not hugely different.  The one in v. 5 is like cargo on a ship; the one in v.2 is the same word as in 2 Corinthians 4:17.    The word “bear” in V. 2 is the same as Jesus bearing the cross.  So, in verse 2 there is more the idea of service to help each other carry the problems of this life.  In v. 5 it’s more the idea of personal responsibility. 

Ultimately, when we stand before God, we stand alone and are responsible, but here, we are in it together and have mutual responsibility to help where we can.  I run into this with students.  I can sit with them and tutor and help them learn, but ultimately they have to take the test and get the grade themselves.  Unfortunately, this is a hard lesson for some young people. 

From a spiritual perspective, we don’t get to blame others for our sin.

III.  Service to spiritual teachers and leaders

6 Let him who is taught the word share in all good things with him who teaches.

That is pretty straightforward. Support the pastor financially, but there are other good things.  Now, how much that is, we get to figure out for ourselves, but it should be equitable.

7 Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.
8 For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.

These verses seem out of place, as a warning, but they may be related to the investment in the church’s ministry.  Deception, God being mocked, sowing and reaping.  Although we say, “What goes around comes around” I think it is deeper than that.  My BCM students and I were discussing the prodigal son story Wednesday, and one student pointed out that we don’t know what happens afterward.  The prodigal son is back, the older son is warned and comforted, but that doesn’t end the effects of what happened.  Today we know the younger son probably would have a disease or something like that, long-term consequences. 

We do sow and reap.  On the other hand, we tend to only focus on the first part, the negative.  But we sow positively also.  It’s not all weeds; fruit comes of it too.  When I have had a garden, I spend a lot of time on the weeds and that is what I tend to remember because they are hard to get rid of, but I also get lots of good tomatoes and okra.  So we are sowing and reaping both ways, but the “everlasting life” part means that we do not know the full extent until eternity.  That ties into the next verse, which continues the positive side of sowing and reaping

IV.  Service to the world and community.  It is pretty clear here that we don’t get off just serving those to whom it is easy or convenient. 

9 And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.

I often pray this for those working with worst cases, that they would not lose heart and be weary in well doing.  For example, Samaritan’s Purse is doing a lot with the refugees coming from the Middle East.  And it is a commandment for us.

10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.

I am glad that Paul added, “As we have opportunity.”  That is both freeing—that God will bring opportunities into our path for service, we don’t need to necessarily go looking for them” and binding—the opportunities will be there so do not let them go by.  All means all, but if we have to prioritize, we start with fellow Christians. 

“Household of faith” has a lot of meaning because at this time family was literally everything.  We value family but it was their total identity to the extent that helping those outside the family didn’t really fit into their view of things.  Christianity revolutionized this by saying, “You have a new family—the household of faith.” 

However, Paul gives us wide latitude here.  Like the “law of Christ” we have wide responsibility but we get to apply it as the Spirit leads us.  Christianity is for thinkers and considerers. WE have to think these things through.

Consequently, you must decide and prioritize what opportunities you will take of service.  You can’t do everything, despite everyone asking you to.  Whenever I look at my mail,I say to my husband, “Everybody wants my money.”  I know who I can trust to use my donations well and I know who I am not interested in helping, either because they are not good stewards or the mission is not crucial to the kingdom of God.  I could give examples but I don’t want to be offensive and do something Paul himself didn’t do.  He didn’t say, “Support and work in this ministry but not that one.”  He said find your gift and your passion and answer God’s call as He gives opportunity.

All that said, DO SOMETHING.  We don’t get a free pass. 

Takeaways:  Service is deeper than just acts.
                    You respond to what God shows you, but you have to be listening.
                   The church family is your first level of service but it can’t stop there.

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