Focal passages: Galatians 5:13-15; 6:1-5, 10
Back in the fall, a man from our community came by my home requesting financial assistance. I had helped him years earlier on behalf of his son’s basketball team. Now the need was for him. Sensing that more was at stake here than dollars, I asked him to come in and sit down.
For the next half-hour, he poured out his soul – a sad tale of a dysfunctional family that needed the support of a Christian community. We prayed and I helped him in a minor way. Then he left. Three weeks later he unexpectedly returned; whereas before he seemed depressed and defeated, now he seemed relaxed and relieved. He shared how the Christian community had come to his aid, and he asked that I anoint him with oil and pray God’s power upon his life.
Today’s scripture is about serving one another. It never implies that loving your neighbor is easy. It is often messy, complicated, difficult and painful. Let us put ourselves in the shoes of the Galatian believers. Have we ever caught someone doing something unethical (6:1)? If yes, did we do all we could to restore that person to wholeness? Have we ever carried someone else’s burden (6:2), even while we were already feeling overwhelmed with our own bucket of life issues? Have we ever been guilty of thinking or saying, “I’m glad I’m not like that!”
As Paul wrote to his friends in Galatia, he recognized that in order for there to be church growth and unity, the word “service” needed to be lived. It needed to cross racial boundaries. It needed to be freely given. It needed to hurt sometimes. It needed to be “we,” not “me.”
The experience I described in my opening paragraph wasn’t about me. I could have given him some money the moment he knocked on my door and sent him away. Sometimes money helps, and sometimes it hurts. The blessing I received was in the “we,” the “we” of the church serving my neighbor by listening, caring, praying, giving and loving just as Christ commanded.