God’s Spirit makes us loving, happy, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle, and self-controlled. There is no law against behaving in any of these ways.Galatians 5:22-23 Contemporary English Version (CEV)
The church in Galatia found itself in turmoil and conflict over “the law” and rules of right and true Christian faith. In response, the writer pleads for them to think broader about faith, community, and what means to live together as the Body of Christ.
As a community that sees itself as “progressive”, it is easy to point to other Christian traditions that read and interpret scripture as a defined set of rigid rules and call them out for their narrow and confining expressions of the Gospel. And while I very much agree that the many Christian traditions that distort faith and weaponize scripture must be challenged — you hear me Mr. Graham — we must not be so arrogant to think that we too cannot fall prey to the draw that rules and order have upon our human spirit.
Yes, rules and boundaries are great, but when they begin to create filters for how we see one another and place value judgements about their place in the body of Christ, we start down a very dangerous path. In our case, we are probably not arguing about circumcision like the Galatians — I hope. — nor do we see a person’s gender or sexuality as a “sin” that must be repented of in order please God. In our world of FPCPA the rules and boundaries we may find ourselves holding tight to are plenty: how and when we meet, worship expressions, communication methods, insiders and outsiders, the ways we have always done things, the ways we have always wanted to do things, how fast or slow we operate, our struggles about the past, our hopes of the future . . . so many things can easily turn to us seeing one another “other” or somehow against “us”.
The good news is that we are well-equipped to avoid these things. Because we generally understand the harm that comes from religious rigidity, we simply need to get used to talking about those places where we can be in danger of falling into the Galatian quandary. Developing postures of transparency of processes, committing to loving those who have yet to discover our community, and being open to critique and evaluation along the way, will allow us to be, not only non-anxious about our life together, but excited and energized about who God is calling the particular body of Christ to be in the future.
There have been and there will always be instances where we will bump up against the rules we want to set for the other, but it is by working through these moments of tension that we truly live out being a resurrection people — and that is faithful and right.
Let us pray . . .
God, when I feel my anxiousness coming, bring a whisper of calm to my ear.
When I try to control everything around me, remind me that I cannot.
When I move towards “my way or the highway” beckon me back to the body.
When I give up on others, remind me that you have not given up on me.
When I falter, give me the courage to seek and receive forgiveness.
When I become overwhelmed by it all, guide me to places and people of peace.