If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.
In Galatians 5 Paul speaks about the concept of the Christian Freedom, which is quite different from the ‘free’ as defined by society. Liberty in Christ does not mean that we have the license to do anything we want. We also need to appreciate the need for us to walk in the Spirit, as Paul reminds us of the greatest commandment – Love your neighbor as yourself, and gives us a gruesome image of what will happen if we do not love each other but instead, hate and conflict each other. If you love one another, the idea is that you build one another up. If you hate and conflict each other, you stumble each other. In this study, we will examine the reality of what happens if we bite and devour each other, and how to be able to love one another even if we disagree with each other.
If you bite and devour each other – I would like to believe with all my heart that no member of the body of Christ actively pursues conflict or intentionally sows discord in the church, but alas, there may be such people. Most people who pursues conflict do not realise that that’s what they are effectively doing; most people who sows discord in the church are not fully aware of the consequences of their actions or that they are sowing discord. It’s tough. Biting and devouring one another is a metaphor that brings the image of wolves and beasts to mind. Not sheep – not the peace-loving, peace-making sheep that we are often called. Such behaviour is a result of an ungodly spirit and conduct. There is no need to act like wolves when it comes to the gospel. For while there were certainly disagreement and controversies about the law and circumcision at that time, if such disagreement were dealt with great bitterness and heatedly, held with threats of divisions and factions, then the whole purpose of the gospel is lost along the way. You know the DISC test? I’ve been told that the trend in most churches in general is that there will be a greater number of ‘S’ people than the rest. Most churchgoers are ‘nicer’ and very sociable, they know how to talk nicely, they tend to avoid confrontational situations and so on.
Sometimes we tell ourselves that some things must be thrashed out. And so we thrash things out, but more often than not, we hurt everybody, hurt ourselves, force others to hurt us, and in the end, we destroy each other. Where to draw the line? Does this mean we shouldn’t thrash things out?
watch out – Or in other words, stop! Stop biting and devouring each other! Stop going at the throat of your brothers and sisters-in-Christ, or anybody at all in fact. A lot of times we bite and devour each other without realising that we’re biting and devouring at each other. A lot of times we’re in the midst of a full-blown fight without realising it, still thinking that we are just thrashing things out, just correcting a small mistake, just having a healthy discussion. But before we realise it, things have gone personal. Feelings have been hurt. We lost sight of whatever the good intention we set off with initially.
or you will be destroyed by each other – one of the most encouraging sights in a church, I’d think, is to see the brothers and sisters-in-Christ encouraging one another, lifting one another, supporting one another, and help building one another up. In similar fashion, I’d also think that one of the most despairing sights in a church is to see the brothers and sisters-in-Christ act not like brothers and sisters, but as enemies, stumbling one another, fighting against one another and in the end, destroying one another. Whether you meant to or not, when you begin to argue, feelings are hurt, and love is lost. Once the love is lost, correcting and debating becomes biting and devouring, and that will only lead to destruction.
We are but hands and feet of the same body. We may function differently, we may even think differently, but at the end of the time, we belong to the same body, and if we don’t realise it, the body becomes dysfunctional. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it [1 Cor 12:21-26].
If we cannot even love ourselves, how are we expected to love others? How are we expected to love our enemies? There are some people you may be unable to stand within the church itself. There are some people whom you may find terribly unlovely within the walls of the church. Still, let’s learn how to love the unlovely. And when you need to rebuke, rebuke in love. When you need to correct, correct in love – always remembering to honour the other person, and in doing so, honour God. It’s not like we’re supposed to condone or spoil others by loving them. Do watch out, though, check our own hearts constantly, so that we align our intentions back to God’s words and will, lest we fall into the trap of destroying each other.