Paul finishes this letter with some thoughts about living with our own sin and the sins of those around us.
When we learn that someone is "caught" (meaning entangled, not "found out") in some form of sin, our knee-jerk reaction should be to support them and help them recover from the pattern of that sin. Meanwhile, we should keep an eye on our own lives so that we aren't tempted by the same sin.
Jesus summed up much of God's law by saying "love you neighbor as yourself". (Mark 12:31) One way we can do this is to "carry each other's burdens". Have you ever avoided spending time with someone because their faults make them draining to be around? Do you have a friend or relative whose life is messy? These are people that Jesus loves and wants us to invest time in.
As we are interacting with people whose flaws may be evident, Paul warns us not to think of ourselves as more important or significant. Instead, we should focus on stripping away our own faults over time. As we grow and change, the only record we should compete against is our own. (v. 3-4)
Should pastors be paid for what they do? Should Christian speakers and writers gain any compensation for their work? Verse 6 indicates that those being taught from the Bible should share what they have with those who teach the Bible. Being paid for his work doesn't make a pastor or speaker less "spiritual". It makes the community surrounding him or her MORE spiritual and in line with what God desires.
An added benefit not included here is that a teacher or pastor can do their job better if they don't need to spend half of their time in a job that keeps them away from learning and helping others learn. They can completely dedicate themselves to their role as teacher or pastor.
A wake up call is issued in verse 7. God does not just allow himself to be mocked, snubbed or neglected. Those who purposefully develop sinful habits will ultimately suffer eternal decay. And those who, by God's grace(undeserved favor), live their lives with a desire to please God, will gain life of eternal quality and quantity.
With this in mind, Paul urges us to press forward in doing good and loving others, especially loving other Christians. We should in no way neglect loving those who are not Christians, but God still asks us to give special attention to loving the Christians in our community. One reason is that this will demonstrate the authenticity of our commitment to Jesus. (John 13:35) Loving Christians can sometimes be even more challenging than loving non-Christians, but the call from God still remains.
In verse 11, we see an indication that Paul has been dictating this letter to an assistant. He wrote the rest of the letter himself probably either for emphasis, or to add a personal touch for his readers.
Paul reveals that the "Christians" who wanted his readers to be circumcised only wanted it: 1- So they themselves could avoid persecution from the anti-Christian segment of the Jewish community. 2- So they could feel good about "converting" someone else to their way of thinking.
When people add rules to the Bible and then expect others to follow them, they may be misguided and well intentioned, prideful and self-serving, or some combination of both. So before we approach someone to question a choice they've made, we should do some real self-examination to see what it is we might personally gain from confronting them. Is it really about helping them, or are we aiming to feel better about ourselves in some way?
Paul zeroes in on the ultimate source of the Christian's personal identity. We should not develop our sense of self-worth based on our actions, but on what Jesus has done for us. Like Paul, the world is dead to us and we are dead to the world. Although we can't see it as God does, we have been transformed and are a completely new creation. By trusting in Christ, our spirits have been remade by God and are continually undergoing a transformation that one day the physical universe will catch up with, as God recreates it as well.
Look at verse 16. Those who find their self-worth in what Jesus has done in them will experience contentment (peace) with their lives and will avoid a lot of pain (mercy).
If you're an artistic or creative person, you may find it easy to only see your worth in what you do or make. But if you've put your trust in Jesus, take a minute now and thank him for the ultimate worth you have as a new creation, a representative of hope to a dying universe. God has made you into the preview of what's coming! If it's important for you to feel loved and appreciated, remember that the person whose opinion matters most, loves you more than you can possibly fathom! God thinks you're wonderful! He made you, and the day you put your trust in him, he transformed you! He hasn't abandoned you either. That transformation is continuing all the time, pointing ahead into eternity.
So thank God for all he's done and still doing, and ask him to keep your mind focused on what really matters.
Next Week- Exploring The Truth In "Spirit Blade"! Coffee House Question From what sources in your life do you try to gain approval, and what do you try to gain approval for?
Next Week- Exploring The Truth In "Spirit Blade"!
Coffee House Question
From what sources in your life do you try to gain approval, and what do you try to gain approval for?