Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.

Galatians 6: 1

The thoughts contained here are very broad on the one hand, and they are rather exclusive or limited on the other. When he says, “If anyone” and “any transgression,” Paul is aiming at a wide spread and highly diverse target. Within the family of faith, many people will get caught up in transgressions at some time or other. We all sin and do truly fall short of the glory of our calling in Christ. Much of the time we catch ourselves, or perhaps stated more accurately, the Holy Spirit within prompts us to recognize the wrong that we are perpetrating against Christ and His holy church through our thoughts, words, and actions. Then repentance, often self-confession, and working on restoration of relationships that have been harmed or damaged is the course of action that we follow. Some of the time, this is a big process, but most of the time, it is something that just happens in the general living out of our days.

However, there are other times when the sin in our lives can be either too great or too subtle to be handled on our own. These situations can be very challenging for others in the body of Christ as we are left with a difficult task that involves discernment and that can lead to confrontation, which is almost never something that we enjoy doing. Yet, God does call upon us to be honest and direct with each other, and we are to engage with people in the area of the sin that we observe in their lives. Any and all of this sort of action requires that we be prayerful in discerning the truth of the situation and also in our approach to a brother or a sister who we believe to be engaging in such sinful living. This is all to be done in a spirit of restoration and with Christ’s grace setting the tone and the nature of our approach to the person with whom we are engaging. The message that we deliver should be one of love, care, and concern for the person and for their relationship with Christ and with His body.

All of this is to be done with a spirit of gentleness. This means that we are careful to remain non-judgmental in the process of calling out that which the Spirit has revealed and that God’s Word has described as sin in the person’s conduct of life. We need to be careful in all of this to keep our own egos under control and to eliminate the contemplation of owning the outcome of these conversations. Christ is the one who is acting in these situations, and we are doing what we are called to do by Him as brought forth by the Spirit and in His Word. This is where Paul warns us to be careful, for it is easy to become angry, frustrated, or judgmental during the process of engaging with someone regarding sin in their life. Thus, there is the restrictive concept expressed in the text whereby Paul instructs us to do any of this sort of thing with the guidance of the Spirit. So, when we are told that “those who are spiritual” should be the ones who confront sin in the body, I think that Paul is saying that any of us in Christ can do this, but that each and every instance of such engagement needs to be done with prayer and with the guidance of the Spirit of Christ. 

If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell?

1 Corinthians 12: 17

Paul is discussing the various wonderful ways that followers of Christ are different from each other in the forms and the types of gifting that God has given to us. There is no question in my mind that this is what the Apostle is speaking about. Yet, it seems to me that there is more here. As I have been reading Richard Beck’s deep and profound book Stranger God[1],I have come to see this expanded view of the body of Christ a little more clearly. It does seem that God has given to us the gift of people. This is a really simple, yet very complicated subject. People are each different and highly distinctive, too. This differentiation exists in the form of our physical appearances, our personalities, our comfort in various situations, and in our capabilities and capacity to engage in each aspect of living within a community. Some may seem to be able to give more, and some are not as able to contribute, or at least that is how it might seem.

One of the challenges that I encounter is found in the way that my thinking has been conditioned over the course of my life. As I meet new people, I am almost immediately assessing them. While thinking that I am being open minded and accepting of the person as an individual, there are various internal filters and analytical tools at work, and these in-grained devices are busily placing this individual into broader categories that are ordered by preconceived definitions that lead me to draw value oriented conclusions regarding this person. None of this is happening at the level of volitional thought. Yet, it is all quite real and present inside of my mind so that this defining of a person has an effect upon my heart’s rendering of their worth as well. This is not at all how Christ sees people, and it has nothing to do with the way that our Lord contemplates the worth or the value of them, either.

In order to change something as long practiced and deeply held as is this form of thinking, I need to submit my perspective and view of people to Christ in repentance for the way that I have not loved His people well and with an expressed desire to be changed by the work of the Spirit within me. When Jesus met people, He was more interested in their story and in getting to know who they were than He was engaged with determining their role or their worth within the culture. So too should I care more about the life that people are living and the trials and troubles of that journey than I do about their skills or lack of them. Each of us is uniquely and beautifully formed by God to fulfill a role within His body of faith. There are no classes of citizenship in Christ’s community, for each and every person contributes to the whole as the Lord grants to them a place within His kingdom. I pray that as I go about my day that I will love and respect the people that I encounter in a manner that sees each of them as a whole and a contributing person who has a valuable and a vital place within God’s grand plan for His kingdom come to this world.    


[1]Richard Beck, “Stranger God, Meeting Jesus in Disguise” (Minneapolis: Fortress Press: 2017)

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgiving be made for all people.

1 Timothy 2: 1

Do you pray? Do you go before God to speak to and with Him and to listen and hear what the Lord has to say? Sometimes this is ordered in one direction as in, I speak forth what is on my mind and pressing upon my heart and then wait for God to respond. At other times I simply wait in silence and attempt to clear my mind of everything in anticipation of the far greater thoughts that God might have for me. There are also times when words pour forth from my mouth as if they are being forced like a geyser’s spout out of my overly full spirit, heart, and mind. The point is that prayer takes on many forms, has various shapes, and can occur on any day, at every hour, and in any circumstances that I might find myself. Some prayer has a formal and even a ritualistic quality to it, but most of it is among the most casual and in-the-moment speech that comes out of my mouth. Prayer can be constant, unceasing, and as present in the life of a follower of Christ as is the air that we breath.

With all of that said, God desires to hear from us. He actually cares about what is on our hearts and the issues that are filling our minds. The Lord also wants us to trust Him with the feelings that are rife within us and with the thoughts that are circling about inside of us. God’s intense interest in what is going on inside of His people is interesting to me in that I understand that He already knows all about everything and everyone. Yet, the Lord cares about relationship with us so greatly that He delights in these times when we enter into the intimacy of prayer with Him. Prayer is a way that we can grow closer to God, wherein we can hear that deep and personal voice of our Creator as He speaks the truth of life into us. There is no more personal a thing that any of us can do with God than to pray, and there is perhaps nothing that we can do as a gathered body of faith that is more impactful upon our unity than praying together.

As Paul instructs us, offering up prayer for all people and in every situation leads us deeper and more fully into God’s heart and mind. There are many people in my world that are easy to pray for. I care about them and they care about me, and I have much in common with them and share important aspects of life and of living with them. There are other people who are close to or important to people that I know and care about; so, it is also easy to seek out the Lord’s involvement in their situations. Then, there are those people who have positions and authority such that the things that they do and the manner in which it is accomplished has an impact upon my life; thus, I tend to pray for their wisdom and protection in carrying out their responsibilities. But after that, there are people who I do not like, that I might fear, or that possibly are antagonistic in some way to and with me. These people are not so easy to pray for, but they are certainly included in the “all people” that Paul is urging us to pray for. As we pray we are taken into God’s heart and mind in ways that are wonderful, powerful, and profound. In prayer we often see solutions to relational challenges that had eluded us in other aspects of engaging with people. Through prayer, we are provided with the grace and the forgiveness that are necessary if we are to truly love others regardless of what they may be doing or saying, and it is this form of Godly love that seeks for the salvation of people that we despise and that desires for them to become a part of the same body in Christ that we dwell within.   

But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.

1 Corinthians 12: 24, 25

People tend to operate differently than does God. I know that this thought is probably not all that surprising to most of us, for if we have spent any amount of time in a relationship with God and have also traveled through life in human company, we have observed this fact in many ways as it has played out in others and in ourselves. We look toward honor or position achieved as a sign that we should give respect and even deference to a person. Thus, when someone has achieved success or has been granted authority or power, we will grant that individual even more of the same. Although we may grumble, complain, and even struggle against the rule of others, in the end, generally we want to let someone take the responsibility for leading so that we can place blame on them when things go poorly and we can benefit from what goes well. God does things in another way, and He desires to see His people live out our relationships in a manner that is similar to His approach to relating with us.

The Lord seeks to elevate the weak, the disenfranchised, and the outcasts of our world. He desires to bring people who are cast off to the fringes of society into close proximity and engagement with those who are at its center. In Christ, God has provided to the world the common ground upon which we can all stand in an ingathering of races, genders, cultures, and even of belief systems or faiths. Christ calls upon all of us to see more deeply so that we look through the exteriors of others and into their hearts and souls. I think that this is something that we do firstly with those who we should be closest to in the course of our days. That would be our families, neighbors, co-workers, and others who we engage in fellowship with on a regular basis. We can ask the Spirit to show us that deeper worth and greater value that resides within every person created by God in His image. We can begin to see the giftedness that flows out of Christ within each person that we encounter as we consider them from the perspective of our best understanding of how Jesus, Himself, would have viewed that beloved individual.

Seeing the people who are closest to us in the light of Christ’s presence in them and with their giftedness on view may sound like an easy thing to do, but it is much more challenging to live out than it might seem. People are all complex and relating to them is never simple. When we look more deeply into those inner places in a person’s life we are taken into the pain, fears, hopes, dreams, and aspirations that are a part of how we are all constructed by our Creator. Yet, these are the places where we need to go if we are to follow the Lord’s desired plan for the way that His body would exist and flourish in this world. As we care about and then for those who are closest to us, we are trained and empowered to do the same for people who are more distant from us. When the portion of the body of Christ that we are associated with in fellowship is healthy, nurturing, and all-embracing, we have a compelling story to tell and to demonstrate to others who do not know Christ, for it is in Christ that we have learned to truly love, and it is through Christ’s love that we have begun to live in a society that values all people equally and that seeks what is best for everyone without regard to relative strength or weakness or human perceived value and worth. 

For in one Spirit we were baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free – and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

1 Corinthians 12: 13

 

We live in a very diverse world. The mobility that people enjoy has also caused us to rub shoulders with those who come from different ethnic, social, religious, and cultural groups in ways that have never really existed on this scale before. Yet, we are often still uncomfortable with people who differ from us in any significant way. It seems to me that this is at least partly true because many of us also hold onto our perspective on issues and positions on things that matter to us with a certain tenacity that also causes us to be very narrow in our construct regarding who and what is acceptably different or diverse from our point of view. In other words, we are too often closed off to even trying to understand how another person might understand a situation or to entering into the way that they evaluate the world and form their own set of values and priorities. We want everything to be engaged with and lived out as if it were being beheld with our eyes alone.

 

This is not the way that God has intended for us to gain our view of the world. Once we became a diverse collection of people, it became essential for us to find ways to communicate with each other. Language certainly does divide us, but so does culture, race, social status, wealth, power and position, religion, sex, and many other differences. As an observation, it seems that people work especially hard at finding ways to separate ourselves from others rather than seeking out our commonality. We desire to find those points of distinction that we can use to hold us apart from others in a manner that gives us some form of sense of superiority or exclusivity. None of this is an example of human functioning in the way that God intends for us to live. God’s creation design did not have separation along any of these lines except that He made us to exist in two sexes, and even then, there was a beautiful harmony and communication between the man and the woman. So, our differences must also have a purpose in God’s design and plan for the on-going reconciliation of Creation to Creator.

 

Thus, I hold that God wants people to resolve differences and to seek out understanding of others so that we can live peacefully together on the earth. The most powerful and effective way for this to come about is through the commonality of the Spirit of Christ’s presence within everyone who knows Christ. There is a mystical form of union that exists within Christ’s body of faith that should transcend any other differences that exist between us and that can bridge any and all gaps of understanding, perspective, and values that we may hold. Yet, unity within the body of Christ is not the end of what the Lord does for us along these lines, for He also opens up our hearts and our minds to seeking out ways to understand and even to love those who are different from us in that most significant of areas, that of faith in Christ. The Spirit demonstrates to us a form of supernatural love that can lead us to enter into dialogue and even to deep friendship with people who are different from us in every way conceivable. The Spirit within helps us to overcome fear and prejudice, to seek out commonality, and to embrace people from all circumstances and situations as exactly what they essentially are, that is, we are all brothers and sisters in the fact that we are all created in God’s perfect image.

Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down,

but a good word makes him glad.

Proverbs 12: 25

 

Anxiety is real. It is not a false emotion or the result of a failure of faith, of trust, or of any other aspect of discipline or understanding. When a person is anxious, normal processes and functions are disrupted and are often interrupted. An anxious mind is seldom one that clearly processes information, and it struggles with making quick and well-reasoned decisions. This all happens in degrees, for sometimes we experience a sense that things are not alright or that there is something unpleasant coming our way. However, at other times, this same sort of feeling can become so strong as to set off hormonal responses in the body as it starts to trigger strong responses such as fight or flight. There is something in the nature of our world today that is causing us to be an anxious people, too. There is certainly much to be uncertain about, and our days are burdened with concerns and cares that are present on every level of society and in almost every culture, nation, and group of people.

 

God has given us the gift of science and also the gift of the knowledge and skill of people who have learned to assess and to diagnose the issues that plague our bodies and our minds, and He has also provided us with treatments and with medications that work to combat the disabling effects of anxiety. I endorse the seeking of professional medical and mental health support and the appropriate use of therapies and medications. I also believe that God has given to us tools of faith to use in order to gain the upper hand on our concerns, fears, and other disabling feelings and emotions. As we can see from this proverb, anxiety is not new or singularly a part of our troubled modern world and its culture. Anxiety goes back to the beginning of human existence, for I would not be surprised if we could speak with Adam and Eve that they would be able to testify to their own highly anxious moments of hiding out from the presence of God as He was taking His afternoon garden stroll. However, anxious thoughts can lead us to something very good.

 

Adam and Eve came out into the open and faced into the issues at hand with the Lord. Not all that happens as a result was pleasant for them, for sure, but not all of it was bad, either. Their anxiety was the direct result of their disobedience to God; yet, that is not always the case with others. When sin is the causal issue, confession, repentance, and seeking God’s gracious wisdom is often a means to find relief from the disabling aspects of the concerns at hand. In other situations, we can still turn to God in honest and open prayer while also seeking out the wisdom that is found in God’s Word and through the counsel and advice of other people with faith in Christ. We can also turn to the people in Christ’s body, the church, to walk through these difficult times with their arms enfolding us in the tangible presence of Christ. These people of faith, God’s Word, and the voice of His Spirit are all sources for those good words that the Lord gives to us to encourage our spirits and to focus our minds on truth. The presence of Christ brings peace and clarity of thought, and from this hoy place, we can more readily face the challenges of today with Christ’s joy in our hearts and on the mind.

Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise,

but the companion of fools will suffer harm.

Proverbs 13: 20

 

We do not always get to select the people who travel through life with us; yet, we do get to make decisions about most of the ones who we listen to with an interest in acting upon what they say. We also can select to follow the example of people based upon the manner in which they live out their words. Unfortunately, there is very little real wisdom out and about in our world; so, there are relatively few people among us who we should follow. The scarcity of wise counsel makes the time that we spend in the company of others matter much more, for that time is irreplaceable and its expenditure can influence the rest of life in ways that are significant beyond measuring. Thus, an hour spent in engagement with a wise person may offset many days lived out in the presence of those who are unwise.

 

In Solomon’s ancient economy of wisdom, the wise person was one who knew God, loved Him, and sought after the wisdom that God gives to us in His Word and through the presence of the counsel of His Spirit. So, the wise person was also a godly person, and people who were close to God tended to be wise people. There is no disconnect between the forms of wisdom that were real and true. There is also no gradient or degree of what can be seen as truth. Things are either true or they are not; so, they are lies. Along the same lines, people cannot walk through life as wise people while surrounding themselves with fools; so, people cannot be righteous, as God views it, and still engage with this world’s false understanding of truth even when it feels good to do so. The end result of all such exploration of truth and wisdom that is outside of God’s depiction of them is damage and harm to self and to others, and these sojourns are doomed to end badly.

 

We avoid most of the negative outcomes by staying close to God in His Word and through our relationships. It is impossible to avoid all interaction with ungodly people. In fact, attempting to do so would be something that God does not direct us to do. He sends His people into the presence of the ungodly so that we can demonstrate to them and to our world the love and the wisdom that are found only in the presence of Christ. Still, we are to surround ourselves with people who also know Christ and who seek to follow His righteous way through their days. This is the deep and intimate fellowship of faith that is found in Christ’s body, and the wise walking partners that are described here are our fellow travelers who dwell in the presence of the Lord and engage with life with His counsel as their source of guidance. This is a harsh planet and hard times and challenges will come to all of us, but God’s wisdom is always supreme, and His counsel will protect us and save us from the sort of harm that penetrates to the core of our souls.

 

 

Thus says the LORD:

Cursed is the man who trusts in man

and makes flesh his strength,

whose heart turns away from the LORD.

 

Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD,

whose trust is the LORD.

Jeremiah 17: 5, 7

 

The prophet says it all with a few very direct words. Where we place our trust directly relates to the results that will come our way. The trust that is under consideration is, in itself, a big issue. It is foundational to the conduct of the day, for the way that we handle almost everything in the course of life is impacted and effected by the nature of the foundation that we stand upon when making decisions, both small and great. When we trust in ourselves and in the wisdom of other people as our primary means of discerning what is right, wise, and just, we will be disappointed and even abandoned at some point in the process. People are fickle and self-interested and are almost always guaranteed to fail to live up to the highest of expectations when we stand on our own without the guidance and the strengthening that God provides to us.

 

Jeremiah goes on in this passage to describe the person who places his trust in the ways of people as being isolated and even as being starved for the things that sustain life and bring about flourishing during it. This person is like a plant that is standing alone in the desolation and bareness of the desert. There is little for his soul to feed upon, and there is no sustaining support and encouragement to be found in these places. In contrast, the person whose “trust is the LORD” is compared with a tree that has been planted by water. In other words, one that is close to, focused upon, and remains connected with this unceasing and completely trustworthy source of nourishment, strength, and guidance in the ways of truth and righteousness. Although a tree does not make the choice to be planted close to the stream, we are different from these analogous plants in the text. We do have the option and the opportunity to make these choices for ourselves.

 

We can turn toward the ways and the thinking of this world for our guidance in various matters. We can even think that it works for us to seek out God’s Word and His path for some things, those that we deem to be religious in nature, and at the same time turn to the more comfortable understandings of this world for the rest. Yet, according to the thoughts of the Prophet, which experience has demonstrated to me to be correct, neither of these approaches to life will work for very long. We will always end up thirsty for truth, starved of wisdom’s nutrients, and isolated from the fellowship of faith where we can find real and lasting encouragement and strength. So, we can also choose the path wherein we place our trust in the Lord alone and turn toward Him absolutely and totally. In so doing, we turn to God’s Word as our primary and final authority for everything, all other ideas and thinking is tested against Scripture, we pray and listen to the Lord’s responses to our prayer as a regular aspect of each day, we engage in the fellowship of other followers of Christ and we seek out the counsel of these like-spirited people, and we recognize the fact that we are living as imperfect beings under the gracious and loving care of the Lord. When we choose this last approach to life, the roots of our hearts, minds, and spirits are planted in the singular source of nurture that will never fail to provide what is necessary for the day at hand.

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

Hebrews 10: 24, 25

 

It is easy to get distracted away from the things that really matter. These are busy days, and the times that we live in present a wide array of challenging and difficult decisions that demand attention throughout the day. No wonder that things of importance get pushed aside and are not granted the sort of contemplation and consideration that they should receive. This is particularly true when it comes to the way that we relate to one another in and around our family of faith, the church. This is a holy organism, a gathering of flesh and spirit that is formed up by Christ and that is bound together by His Spirit in ways that are timeless, mysterious, and that come straight out of the heart of God. So, giving real thought and attention to the way that we relate and interact in this environment and caring deeply about growing the relationships that we find here should be important to each of us who follow Christ.

 

The object of this prayerful thought, according to the author of Hebrews, is significant as well. We are told to be engaged in the process of encouragement and of support for others with a specific outcome in mind. The body of Christ is to be a gathering of people who stand apart from our world by virtue of the love that we share with each other and the love that we pour out into the world around us. It is also to be remarkable because of its seemingly relentless drive to do good in an environment where goodness is too often viewed as weakness. These redemptive attitudes of sacrifice and love do not happen on their own. They require us to surrender to Christ and to allow His Spirit full control over our hearts and minds and the decisions that we make about the conduct of life. This loving approach to the world is best engaged in within the context of other people who are likewise motivated and who will support this attitude and the actions that come out of it.

 

We need each other, and we thrive best when we are rooted and grounded in the company of other people who know Christ and who are willing to seek out His will and follow His lead in taking on the daily challenges that come to us because we live in a world that is rapidly traveling along a path toward its day of final judgement as Christ returns to reclaim all that seems lost and to renew Creation to its intended righteousness and glory. These are the times that we live in, and the body of Christ is the true family that can provide the support, encouragement, and guidance for each of us to live out Christ’s calling to love others, to do what is right and good in our world, and to bring the message of hope and salvation that is the great good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ into regular and routine contact with those around us.

Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him.

1 Corinthians 7: 17

 

At first this verse might seem to be about contentment; about accepting who and what you are. Those ideas are exposed here, but there is also much more. This is about the fact that people are complicated and complex. We are diverse in ways that are both large-scale and obvious and at the same time, subtly nuanced or shaded. People are a direct reflection of the one who created us as we are so made in God’s image. None of us are the totality if that image in ourselves, but in the sum total of all of us, we begin to demonstrate a more complete expression of the Creator.

 

This does not mean that we each come into a relationship with God in a fully formed condition or that there is not growth and reforming to be done over time. God takes us where we are and as we are at that time, and He begins a life-long process of working on and in us to shape us into being a more fully developed person who brings the presence of God into the world. Yet, God’s acceptance of each of us means that His earthly family, His body, is populated by people who are different from each other in almost every way that it is possible for us to differ. This means that we are going to be in close relationship with people from other social and economic situations, with vast educational disparity, who speak various languages and do so with interestingly odd to us accents. God also brings together racial differences, cultural divides, and various political persuasions into one great gathering based upon faith in Christ and founded upon the fact that He breaks down all divisions and barriers between His people.

 

God calls upon us to live in this diverse and even troubling or uncomfortable environment. He directs us to focus upon our commonality in Christ rather than upon the differences that we perceive in our humanity. God directs His people to live out to the fullest the gifts, skills, talents, and personality that we have been given as all of this is a part of that complete image of the Creator that is formed by Christ’s body when we are gathered together. We can turn to Christ to help us gain in our ability to be accepting of who and what we are in His kingdom, and we can do the same regarding others in the body of Christ in order to come to a place of acceptance and understanding of them, for Christ’s grace, love, and wisdom are the gifts that He grants to us so that we can learn to live in the manner that He desires for us to do. In Christ and through His grace, we, His Body, are bearers of light in our world, and we bring forth the hope of peace that Christ alone sets out as the goal of life on earth and as the gateway to eternity.