November 13th, 2010


Freedom from biting and devouring

For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.

—Galatians 5:15
My friend Mike preached an excellent sermon on the "Freedom from Biting and Devouring" a few years ago. Thinking about it a lot lately.

Our church has been in the early stages of transition. As we've seen before, we suck at it. Our elders opted to end my friend Phil's artist-in-residence position (his job, like mine, changed so many times over the years that picking any one title would be tough and incomplete) last month. Until now, we've been grieving and adjusting, which had been sad and hard. But in moving forward, we've gotten to the stage where some of our gross underbelly becomes more exposed. Thankfully, none of it is a surprise to God or outside His sovereignty, but seeing the biting and devouring become apparent is unsettling.

There's a lack of charity that's had its roots in our church for a long time. Sometimes we've seemed free of it, only to have it wake up with a vengeance when something we treasure is threatened. Then it lashes out again, and in such times it's much easer to see where its tendrils have been choking us all along—where we've refused to believe the best about anyone other than ourselves (and those who agree with us), shown no concern for those who may be different from us (even as we laud examples of people who like us), and remained focused to the point of obsession on our needs and wants. In its grip, our imaginations can atrophy to fit inside the borders of our cramped personal dramas.

Loving others costs us something, and we're afraid of paying those costs or following God anywhere where we might lose anything. That's bad news for following, because those are usually the places He wants to go. Our stuff isn't as important as our charity (whatever our stuff may be), and if we co-opt good and beautiful things into barriers toward charity, God may well remove them out of love for others and, quite frankly, of us. God's Church doesn't love Him or anyone else well when we're just trying to hold onto the things we're afraid of losing, and He doesn't love us well if He lets us keep going that way.