“For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another” (Galatians 5:14-15).
Churches are made up of imperfect human beings, like police departments. And like police departments, churches can have people problems. One pastor said, “If you have people, you’re going to have drama.”
Paul the apostle said the words of our opening passage in his epistle, or letter, to church members in the region of Galatia. Obviously, a dispute was going on between some of the church members. The Bible doesn’t say what the issue was, but the dispute that resulted must have been ugly because some of them were “biting and devouring one another,” to use Paul’s words.
Isn’t that terrible—for Christian people to speak biting, devouring, hurtful words to each other? Proverbs 12:18 says, “There is that speaketh like the piercings of a sword: but the tongue of the wise is health.” Words can do awful damage, or they can do a lot of good. As an officer, you often have to deal with emotional people, and you need to learn quickly how important it is to use words wisely.
Our passage also says that they were biting and devouring “one another,” which refers to many people, as opposed to “each other,” which means just two. So the primary combatants may have gotten others to jump into the fight, either on the “Hatfield” side or the “McCoy” side so to speak. One thing about sin, it tends to spread: “A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump” (Galatians 5:9). Can you picture Paul reminding the combatants in so many words, “Hey, guys, didn’t the Lord say to ‘love thy neighbor as thyself?”
Were these people hypocrites? Granted, their behavior didn’t help the cause of Christ, but there’s no indication that they were. In Galatians 5:17, Paul talks about the battles that a Christian has between the godly inclinations of the indwelling Holy Spirt and the sinful inclinations of his old flesh nature which he still has: “For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.”
Most likely, some people in Galatia got caught up on an issue that stirred their emotions, they said things they shouldn’t have, and the whole thing snowballed. It was unfortunate, but it gave Paul a chance to do some teaching. In fact, his teaching was put into the Bible to help church members in the future who would have a similar problem. Isn’t it neat how God turned something bad into something good!
Say a bad guy provokes a cop into losing his temper and saying something inappropriate. Bad guys may do that sometimes. If it’s on the officer’s body camera, you may see it on TV as “BREAKING NEWS!” complete with the “shocking video” of the officer’s transgression. Of course, the “shocking video” may be edited and the bad guy’s words or deeds beforehand may be cut out. But people may see the video and say, “That officer is a bad apple. He should be fired.” Although the officer may deserve some discipline, he is NOT a bad apple. He’s an imperfect human being trying to do his job and was provoked.
There are no perfect Christians, just as there are no perfect cops. That’s one reason to go to church, to learn more and grow in your relationship with the Lord. Do you want to see how to be sure of a home in heaven? Please click “Helpful Links” on the top menu and then “How Do I Go to Heaven?” on the dropdown menu.
Brian Miller 8/28/2018
Cleveland Baptist Church | 4431 Tiedeman Road, Brooklyn, Ohio 44144 | 216.671.2822