The wonderfully reassuring passage speaks of bearing one another’s burden. Chapter 6 of Paul’s letter to the Galatians affirms that Christians have received the Spirit. Not a special group within the church, but the Christian congregation as such is charged with the restoration of straying members. Such efforts at restoration are a risky business, involving the possibility of further misunderstanding and conflict, self-righteousness, and offending the straying members even further. As his own letter shows, for Paul the business of being a caring congregation is risky, and it accepts the risks.
The effort to live a Christian life is not a solo performance but is like playing in a symphony, being members of a family in which there is mutual care. Though free from the law of Christ as a way to salvation, acts of Christian love fulfill the law as illuminated by Christ.
Paul had appointed teachers in the churches of Galatia as part of his original mission, who were supported by gifts from the congregation. It is from this early beginning that we still preserve the practice of tithing or donating to our churches today. Either the new teachers had dismissed them, or their teaching had caused their support to dwindle. Paul insists that faithful teachers of the gospel be financially supported in their mission if faith.
Finally, in our verse for today, Paul addresses the concept of the flesh and the Spirit. Metaphors for present actions and the Last Judgment work for the good of all. The doctrine of salvation by grace without meritorious work does not cut the nerve of social action. While Paul urges mutual care for those of the family of faith, fellow members of the Christian community, Christian concern is not limited to taking care of the needs of church members, but is directed to all. The church is in the world to represent God’s care for the whole world, whether or not the world responds.
It is this caring that encourages so many churches to have missions outside their immediate congregations. Churches provide missions and ministries for the homeless, the addicted, the alcoholic, those on parole or probation, and a host of other brothers and sisters in need. They reach their arms far to encompass people in faraway lands, providing education, medical care, housing and food. This is the work of the Holy Spirit and the work of each of us as sons and daughters of God.
Help us always to support the church to the best of our financial ability, for without our faith, we would have nothing. Help us also to reach out to one another in need and to teach, to give and to share as one family under the wings of the Holy Spirit. Grant us strength in times of trial and plenty in times of want.
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- Atlanta Bible Study Examiner, Donna Sundblad
- Kentucky Bible Study Examiner, Timothy Edwards
- Bible Verse of the Day
- Daily Bible Guide
- Growing in Christ
- Bible Study Tools Online
- The Jesus Walk Bible Study Series
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