Would you agree that today is easy to look around and see negativity, lacking, and suffering? I mean, of course, there is a lot of goodness and acts of kindness that happen every day. Still, in general, whether we keep up with the latest news, social media trends, or gossip within our family or any other groups we belong to, we can note behaviors that are more detrimental to life than sustaining. It is as if with each day that passes, we become more proficient in diminishing others.
How has the world changed since I was a child? Or at least, I have become more aware of the ugliness and hurts.
This is a tremendous challenge for the church. Even more, as we too have our shortcomings. Just because we are Christians does not mean we get right all the time. We struggle with personal issues, and many do try to learn to do what is right and kind.
Can we change the world and make it a better place for everyone? A better question would be: Are we responsible for changing the world and making it a better place? What do you think?
Today’s Scripture provides us with the framework to explore and answer this question. We are reading from the letter of the apostle Paul to the Galatians, chapter 5:15, 25-26
“If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.
If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, competing against one another, envying one another.”
Paul wrote this letter to confront those teaching the false gospel that to obtain salvation, one needed to keep the Law of Moses. In other words, faith and grace were not enough. But Paul taught that the message of God’s grace is salvation by Christ alone which means that a person can’t win, earn, or deserve salvation; it is a gift of God and not of works (Ephesians 2:8-9).
This false teaching caused people to become self-centered and self-serving, competing against each other about who was the most religious and righteous. Hence, those following the false teaching had abandoned the freedom they had obtained in Christ through faith and grace and were diminishing others to elevate themselves.
For this reason, Paul was warning them not to waste their freedom in Christ to selfishly serve themselves instead of serving each other in love. Echoing what Jesus said, Paul reminded people that the entire law is fulfilled in that one word: love.
This is still an issue that causes harm to many people. In this case we are talking about an issue within the church, however, sadly this is too common human behavior everywhere else. Any group made up of people who serve only themselves will eventually fall into conflict and division. There are those that the only thing that matters to them is accomplishing their agendas and meeting their own desires. In other words, to always have things “their way,” turning aside from the needs of others, or charge on through, trampling on those needs directly. Inevitably, eventually, those collisions lead to the devastation of the entire group and everyone is hurt.
The apostle James also explains that a life lived in such selfish manner leads to “disorder and every vile practice” (James 3:16), along with coveting, quarreling, and fighting (James 4:1-3). These words resemble what Paul said: that we end up devouring and consuming each other to try to get what we want.
Has this ever happened to you? Most likely, you have trampled over others to get your way, and you have been trampled over by others too. Sometimes we do it without even realizing it. Unfortunately, it is the way of the world, and inevitably we are influenced by those behaviors from the early ages of our lives. And the painful reality is that we may bring that to our relationships, whether it is to our family, our classmates at school, our colleagues at work, or our church family.
What’s the alternative? How can we change that?
The apostle Paul is telling us that a free life is squandered on serving only our desires. The alternative is to use our Christ-won life and freedom by investing it through serving others in love as we are led by God’s Spirit, as he said,
If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, competing against one another, envying one another.
And, in verse 2 of chapter 6, he added,
Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.
Clearly, Paul is saying that being led by love and compassion not only does that lead to greater joy for us, but it is also living as Jesus would.
Isn’t it amazing that the greatest answers to the most challenging existential questions are always the most obvious and simplest? To overcome self-destruction, we need to take care of each other through selfless acts of love, kindness, and compassion. In short, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
Do you have any idea of the power that you have to bless others? That is, to help contribute to their success instead of their demise. Once we act in love towards one another, the opposite of “biting, devouring, and consuming one another” happens-we encouraged, lift, and build up one other.
What a gift to be a part of someone else’s success in life. What a gift to know that we changed a life of someone for good. What a gift to know that we contributed to a bright future for a family because we acted in love.
Can you picture yourself like that, being “the blessing factor”?
There is a story I recently became aware of about a young lady that acted in love for another person, becoming that blessing factor that changed the life of another young lady forever. Her name is Simone Biles. This is what Belle Anne Scholar wrote about her,
“Jordan Chiles was ready to quit gymnastics. She had been passed over for big assignments year after year due to lack of consistency. The environment was toxic, and many in the gymnastics community had written her off. But Simone said, “I see you Queen.”
In 2019, Simone invited Jordan to relocate from Washington to Texas to join the gym that she owns—a safe space with a positive environment. When Jordan arrived, the first thing they worked on was not building her skills but instead building her confidence. Two years later, Simone and Jordan are headed to the Olympics together.”
What a powerful act of love from Simone to Jordan. But this is even more powerful if you knew Simone’s background story. Did you know that Simone and her sister, Adria, were raised by their grandfather Ron and grandmother Nellie, after their mother’s struggle with substance abuse? Everything was set against her from the beginning when she was just a child. But with the support and sacrifices of her family, Simone Biles overcame many obstacles and tribulations to pursue her dream of becoming one of the greatest gymnasts of all time. And she did, and she is. And now, here she is doing for Jordan what others did for her. Jordan had the skills but was lacking the support and the confidence to follow through. Instead of trying to get rid of the competition, Simone lifted another fellow gymnast and brought her along her side.
What if people around you were committed to your success in such a manner? What if you were committed to the success of those around you in such a manner?
I believe all of us need someone to do this for us, to help and lift us up; but there is also someone who needs us to do that for them. True greatness and happiness come from people getting involved in doing something for somebody else, from contributing to their wellness, whereas is spiritual, physical, emotional, or mental. This is what Jesus taught as the foundation, the bedrock, of what it means to be a disciple of him. We are called to be a blessing, to be healers and messengers of good news.
As you can see, our Christian faith is not only about avoiding what is evil but much more about making things better for all people—just like Jesus did.
Our Cathy Harris shared an encouraging word with me this week, and I asked her if I could share it since it was on point with this message. She said, “Your journey is not the same as mine, and my journey is not yours, but if you meet me on the path, may we encourage each other.”
I agree, we are always meeting in the path. So, my friends, no matter how long we live or what we decide to do in life, we will never run out of opportunities to help others. Through helping others, we find and fulfill our purpose in life.
For this, today I am going to challenge us with two invitations. First, if you are biting and devouring others, would you stop? It is self-destructing and it is contrary to our faith in Jesus. Second, who in your life can you bless and help succeed? Perhaps it is just showing up when we know someone is hurting. Our gentle words, smile, helping hand, or shoulder to cry on can make a world of difference to them.
We are the blessing factor by having God in us and working through us. So, let us all commit today to add value to those around us and not diminish them. Whether it is at church, home, work, school, grocery store, driving down the road, or in social media, God has given each of us the ability to be a blessing; let’s be sure to use it to help and lift each other.
Let’s be the blessing factor.
“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.