LOOKING OUT FOR EACH OTHER
I really love our country but am really concerned about its future. We are so divided over our future direction. Political parties often see each other as enemies instead as worthy opposition. In a democracy there needs to be lively debate over issues and then vote and move on. We need at least two groups. I like to call them the “Why Nots” and the “What Fors?” On this 4th of July weekend I have looked at Paul’s letter to the Galatians and believe I have seen some insight how we in the church can be empowered to look out for each other while sharing the truth in love, and how that might inform us as citizens of this country debating and seeking to discover what is the best way for our country to move into the future.
Paul had great affection for the people of Galatia. He had been injured during one of his missionary journeys and they helped him to recover so he could continue his work. While there he insisted our relationship with God is based on grace. The Cross of Jesus Christ frees us from the powers of sin and death, and when we are baptized, we die and rise with Christ to new life and a relationship with God that never ends.
But word got to Paul other teachers arrived insisting a central part of becoming a Christian was the need to get circumcised. Paul was irate. Doing that would be a rejection of the freedom Christ gives us in baptism and return us to trying to fulfill all the elements of the law.
The part of his letter that was read for today’s second lesson is the end of the letter. It is sort of his way of saying; “We have been freed to care for each other. Let me share with you what this means to me.”
Part of being the body of Christ in a local congregation is really getting to know each other. Since we have been growing in numbers it is all the more important for us to work at this. In a healthy organization, it changes a little bit every time a new person joins, and for the congregation to become a caring family of God we need to spend time with each other and deepen in our relationships.
One place where this has been happening is in the “Good Grief” group that meets on Thursday evenings. One rule has been: whatever is shared in the group stays there and is confidential. As each week has passed, we share more and more what our faith journey is and what griefs we have experienced along the way. In the process a group that really cares about each other has formed.
Now to Paul’s advice. All of us are redeemed sinners. Others see aspects of who we are that are not the best and often are hidden from our sight. I love the phrase, “denial is not a river in Egypt.” But once we see these flaws in each other what do we do?
One way is to pretend they are not there and move on. That only forestalls the day when we say, “I have had all I can stand, and I can’t stand it anymore.” Then our upset over our family member boils over in anger. Another method is to tell everyone in the group but them. But you know what gossip does.
Paul’s way is when you believe someone has a bad attitude or is messing up is to seek the Holy Spirit to guide us in speaking the truth in love. But an important part of speaking up is to be humble and seek first greater understanding from the person about their behavior. You just might be reading them wrong. Or, did you know the things the people around us do that bug us most are often reflections of our own sins?
When you approach your sister or brother do it in a way that you do not come across as knowing more than you know or being a legend in your mind. If you see something you think is a sin in another person, fir pray to Christ to guide you when you approach the other person. And when you do, start by asking questions, like “I was wondering” or “I’m curious.”
At the same time remember what Jesus tells us: Don’t worry about the speck in your brother’s eye and miss the log in your own eye.
But we are to speak the truth in love when we see something that concerns us. Another phrase that is so important is “Be angry, but sin not. Let not the sun go down on your anger.” But do not suck it in. We are to look out for each other. Just don’t look so much at your brother or sister’s behavior that you are not taking time to monitor your own life.
At the same time, you are talking with the other person they might have a load they need to get off their heart. Listen, Listen, Listen. When I worked for Hospice one of my jobs was to train volunteers who were to visit recently bereaved people. I came up with this simple advice: “Show up, Listen up, sit down, and shut up.” The whole time you need to be praying for the Lord’s cues as what to do next.
I believe if we model this behavior in the church, it can help us out in the community when we are dealing with people who see life a different way. Let’s begin by listening, and then sharing the truth in love. I am amazed how much I learn from a person who differs with me. We both grow through the encounter.
Our Lord Jesus Christ went to the Cross to take on the powers of sin and death. He died, but also the power of sin and death to destroy us died with him. But God had the last word by raising him to new life. Let that new life grow and deepen in each of us as we work with each other and our community. Amen.