Perhaps one of the more difficult issues in life to deal with is that of relationships. Just not human ones but what about our Jesus-centred relationship?
In Galatians 5 Paul highlighted the differences between the ‘fruit’ of living in the flesh and the Spirit. So in chapter 6 he continues that theme in terms of application.
A life of new traits
These first three verses of Galatians 6 relate to our speech and attitude. We need to remind ourselves that Paul is not speaking to people who don’t know the Lord; rather to fellow believers – even though we may regard the ‘church’ as being in its infancy at the time.
We know only too well that if someone in church fellowship is overtaken in a sin or some failing, it often leads to criticism, unfortunately gossip (at times) and or perhaps even shunning the person involved.
Paul’s approach is something of a challenge – notice the characteristics he says we should adopt – gentle; humble; helping; sharing – the object of which is to seek to lead a person to restoration rather than alienation. (Of course these characteristics should always be displayed in our relationships within our fellowships, not only when someone has ‘tripped up’).
Notice also a warning to everyone ‘be careful…’ it is true that exposed sin in the life of a believer may lead to personal disgrace and maligning of the church as a body. Being creative in our relationships within our fellowships in terms of our speech and attitude – especially if issues like this may arise – is not easy, but Paul says it is a mark of obedience. So, let’s live…
A constructive life
You may agree that there is a common understanding that doing things ‘my way’ and getting ‘my way’ bring satisfaction – the opposite is often the case. I see the emphasis in Galatians 6: 4-10 not relating to activity (the things we do) or busyness (how often we engage in activities) but encouraging diligence (how we go about activity) and perseverance (going on when it’s difficult).
Neither do I see here an emphasis on success — for either the individual believer or our fellowships. I feel that in Christian circles we sometimes look for and confuse externals as a measure of success – for example the number of people attending; the number who respond to a call for salvation or to the altar of commitment – but that should not detract from our seeking to encourage growth in the widest sense.
I believe the main theme in these verses is fruitfulness — this speaks to me about what the Lord can do in and through our lives rather than what we may do for him.
Consider ‘fruit’ in the natural sense – grapes, apples. Fruit is recognised for what it is and the better it looks the more we are likely to taste and enjoy it – at its simplest, this helps me see, as Galatians 5:22 Mge puts it, ‘When we live God’s way he brings gifts into our lives in much the same way fruit appears in an orchard.’ As a result others may be encouraged to taste and see that the Lord is good.
I admit there have been (and still are) times of activity and busyness in my life as far as the church fellowship is concerned; however, I have been trying to learn more about letting the Lord make me fruitful, but not slipping in what I do, how often I do it, but in diligent perseverance. Notice Paul says ‘…we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up’ (verse 9 NLT).
A changed life
Verses 11-18 see Paul seeking to correct errors about the need for keeping Jewish laws, such as circumcision, in addition to or as a condition of salvation – which he says and we believe, is by faith in Christ alone.
For those of us who are non-Jews (Gentiles) ‘law keeping’ or ‘rule keeping’ error has sometimes come in the form of what may be called ‘tick box’ do this or don’t do that conditions for Christians – in my life experience some of these are, for example, women wearing hats/head coverings; avoiding cinema attendance; Sabbath/Sunday keeping.
In his book Joshua — Victorious by faith, a Back to the Bible publication, Theodore H. Epp says, ‘There are things a Christian should not do but we would have fewer problems with the negative side of our Christian lives if we went on a spiritual offensive….’
Our personal experiences of coming to faith will be different and I am sure that each of us will know the change the Lord has made and is still making in our lives.
A changed life may seem to be more obvious for example in the person who has been a chronic alcoholic, however for those of us who were caught up in self-righteousness or churchiness – it is also a change to accept that all our good works are like filthy rags. Change may have taken place at a specific time we asked the Lord to save us, yet every day the Lord has to help me ‘work out’ my salvation because every day we go into the battle afresh.
A progressive life
For some folk this new life may come in a miraculous deliverance, for others more progressive.
However we do believe that if we truly seek to follow the Lord and walk in obedience to his word, he will help us live a creative life, live a constructive life and effect a real change in our daily lives leading us to a greater level of maturity.
In respect of living this creative life, Paul urges us: ‘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’ (Galatians 5:25).
A Spirit-centred life
Having warned in verses 19-21 what can hinder us, he goes on in verses 22-23 to state what happens when we live God’s way – we know these as ‘the fruit of the Spirit.’ The Message Bible calls this ‘gifts of God’ that ‘legalism is helpless in bringing about.’
May 15 is Pentecost Sunday. Let’s remember the Acts 2 coming of the Holy Spirit led to these motivational gifts for us. We have the Spirit’s help in living a creative life!
Elsewhere Paul declared, ‘I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made – but I am well on my way… I’m off and running and I’m not turning back’ (Philippians 3:14).
That’s how Paul felt and so it’s good enough for me to have the same aim. May it be the same for every Christian!
Brian Bell attends Christ Church (Congregational) Abbots Cross, Northern Ireland and describes himself as ‘grateful for the privilege and opportunity given me to serve my Lord.’ Brian is also a volunteer with Disabled Christians Fellowship Ireland. Link: firstname.lastname@example.org