Galatians 6: Be Lovely

Be Lovely

Paul’s final words to the Galatian churches included words of advice, and one last rebuttal of the Judaizers’ errant teaching.  Since the instruction was given to the community, I thought fitting that we work it out in community.  So, as you read each excerpt from the final chapter of Galatians, take a moment and think through how you would summarize the passage.  I put down my own thoughts as well – not that my thoughts are the “correct” answer, but to let you know how the text came across to me.  Your insights may be entirely different.  Have fun!

Live creatively, friends. If someone falls into sin, forgivingly restore him, saving your critical comments for yourself. You might be needing forgiveness before the day's out. Stoop down and reach out to those who are oppressed. Share their burdens, and so complete Christ's law. If you think you are too good for that, you are badly deceived.

How would you summarize this excerpt?

Pete’s summary: Love people back when they mess up.  This is a wonderful idea that I think we can all agree on.  But when we are the ones in the middle of the muck, it’s easier said than done.  When someone has offended us, causing us pain, making a mess in our lives as well as theirs, costing us in myriad ways, my first thoughts are generally not loving.  Depending on the situation, I may feel hurt, angry, saddened, frustrated, disappointed, violated, let down, etc.  In those moments, my words reflect my humanity more than my Christ.  One thing that has helped me is this: when someone does something that negatively impacts me (or is just messing up in a way that I need to deal with it), I try to take a deep breath and distance myself from the mess itself, reminding myself that the person who is doing “whatever” is doing it for a reason.  I try to put myself in their place to gain understanding.  If I’ve done something to provoke their behavior, I need to own it and seek forgiveness.  A lot of the time, however, whatever is happening is not about me, and therefore personalizing it adds to my misery.  Helping the person work through what’s happening becomes an easier goal when I can view the person struggling as just that.  Be lovely to those who need it most.

     Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don't be impressed with yourself. Don't compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life.

How would you summarize this excerpt?

Pete’s summary: Be the best you – that’s all you can do.  In our culture, it is very difficult to live without comparing yourself to someone else, or comparing people to each other.  We are tempted to do this in so many categories of life: our looks, weight, financial position, sex life, education level, political stance, marriages, parenting, everything…  We likely feel stronger about some areas of our life than others.  Sometimes we feel so good in comparison to others that we become arrogant.  This, of course, immediately deteriorates the sense of community with others.  It’s difficult to be “with” someone when we feel “above” them.  Same goes for when we feel like losers in other aspects of our lives.  After many years of comparing myself to others, and being compared to others, I came to a conclusion: I can only do what I can do.  I am only responsible for doing my best in the areas I influence.  I cannot control anything beyond that.  How are you doing on this?  Have you been beating yourself up because you’ve been comparing yourself to others?  Have you been feeling uppity where you feel like you’re above others?  Be lovely toward yourself and others.

     Be very sure now, you who have been trained to a self-sufficient maturity, that you enter into a generous common life with those who have trained you, sharing all the good things that you have and experience.

How would you summarize this excerpt?

Pete’s summary: Support your church!  This is literally what Paul is instructing here.  There were people devoted to teaching and pastoring the people in the churches of Galatia at levels that made it impossible to earn money by other means.  The church community (if it wants to maintain that level of attention) needs to provide for those who serve her in a vocational way.  I am so grateful for so many who have made it possible for me to do my thing at CrossWalk!  Thank you!  Be lovely toward your church with support if you have benefitted and hope to continue benefitting.

     Don't be misled: No one makes a fool of God. What a person plants, he will harvest. The person who plants selfishness, ignoring the needs of others—ignoring God!— harvests a crop of weeds. All he'll have to show for his life is weeds! But the one who plants in response to God, letting God's Spirit do the growth work in him, harvests a crop of real life, eternal life.

How would you summarize this excerpt?

Pete’s summary: We still reap what we sow.  The reason I include still in this is because some folks I’ve run across understand the grace of God to mean that their sin is of no account because they are covered by the love of God.  While it is true that we cannot do anything to cause God to stop loving us, everything we do has an impact on our lives and those around us.  While we can move ahead with great confidence that God loves us unconditionally, we must also walk forward knowing that when we choose to walk in ways that are not lovely, we can and should expect some unlovely results.

     So let's not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good. At the right time we will harvest a good crop if we don't give up, or quit. Right now, therefore, every time we get the chance, let us work for the benefit of all, starting with the people closest to us in the community of faith.

How would you summarize this excerpt?

Pete’s summary: Do good no matter what.  This seems obvious, yet we struggle sometimes, I think, and settle for less.  Probably because we’re discouraged, wondering “what’s the point?”, or we’ve just been going for a long time and we’re worn out.  Or we feel like it’s an uphill battle.  Whatever it is, Paul’s encouragement is wise and practical.  What do we really gain by doing a half-baked job except for more work down the road, anyway?  Be lovely in your work, whatever it is.

     Now, in these last sentences, I want to emphasize in the bold scrawls of my personal handwriting the immense importance of what I have written to you. These people who are attempting to force the ways of circumcision on you have only one motive: They want an easy way to look good before others, lacking the courage to live by a faith that shares Christ's suffering and death. All their talk about the law is gas. They themselves don't keep the law! And they are highly selective in the laws they do observe. They only want you to be circumcised so they can boast of their success in recruiting you to their side. That is contemptible!

How would you summarize this excerpt?

Pete’s summary: Stick to love no matter what.  Paul’s writing with his own hand authenticated the letter, and also added a powerful boost to his last shot at his detractors.  Circumcision represented the Law.  The Law had its place, but not in terms of winning or keeping God’s favor.  Love is what it’s all about.  God is lovely.

     For my part, I am going to boast about nothing but the Cross of our Master, Jesus Christ. Because of that Cross, I have been crucified in relation to the world, set free from the stifling atmosphere of pleasing others and fitting into the little patterns that they dictate. Can't you see the central issue in all this? It is not what you and I do—submit to circumcision, reject circumcision. It is what God is doing, and he is creating something totally new, a free life! All who walk by this standard are the true Israel of God—his chosen people. Peace and mercy on them!

How would you summarize this excerpt?

Pete’s summary: Join God for life and freedom.  I think we have something backwards.  We think about ways we should get involved in whatever God is doing to add to our lives like we would add an accessory to an outfit.  We think minimally, conservatively, wondering if we can afford to give up time or resources from our life to “help God out.”  This is off the mark.  God is life, the source of life, the fullness of life.  When we are fully immersed in tying into God, flowing in God’s stream, aligning with God – that’s when life truly sings.  Whenwe ignore it or avoid it, we essentially cut ourselves off from life.  Rather than wondering where we might fit God in, we’d be better served wondering how every aspect of our lives couldtie into what God is doing – because the Spirit of God flows everywhere.  When we do this, we see the fruit of the Spirit come on strong, and find it natural to be lovely.

     Quite frankly, I don't want to be bothered anymore by these disputes. I have far more important things to do—the serious living of this faith. I bear in my body scars from my service to Jesus.

How would you summarize this excerpt?

Pete’s summary: Living the faith beats arguing about it.  I’ve been in Paul’s shoes before, spending time debating about particular issues with other pastors.  There comes a point when you have to decide that enough is enough, you’ve said enough and heard enough, and need to get on with the actual living of faith and not just talking about it.  Dialogue is good, but can easily become a substitute for actually doing something.  Issues matter, but lives are changed when we decide to actually be lovely with our words, attitude, and behavior. 

Benediction: May what our Master Jesus Christ gives freely be deeply and personally yours, my friends. Oh, yes!

– Galatians 6:1-18 (The Message)

Process Questions…

1.       What from this chapter seems to be jumping out at you most?  Why?

2.       Assume God is involved here – what might God be trying to say to you?

3.       What is your response to what is happening here?  Next steps?

Watch the video of this teaching here.