I've been teaching Galatians for the past three months to my sub-congregation at church. More on that in a later post. But in the midst of my blog's focus recently on our country's political bickering over health care, and whether or not "Social Justice" is evil code for socialism (along with all the other fun from Glenn Beck), a quote from Scot McKnight's commentary on Galatians jumped out at me:
Paul says literally (in Galatians 515): “If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.” Technically, Paul could have said: “If you keep on biting and devouring each other, you will be destroyed by each other.” The addition of “watch out for” puts emphasis, emotionally, on the sin. The problem of the Galatians is typically human: egos enter into the debates between people and before long the issue is who is going to win; it becomes who is right, not what is right.
This was a reminder to me, a sinner, that what's important in having fellowship with Christians is to have civility in our debates. The "typical human" problem for all of us is this: More important than humbly seeking "what is right," is to be the one "who is right."
This, sadly, is one of the worst besetting sins of evangelicals (of whom I am one). We are so enamored with being right that we do not listen to others' insights, especially if we have successfully labeled them in a category that we can dismiss outright.
If you can label people something that disparages them, you can go ahead and devour them with your words. This comes from both sides of the political spectrum, which uses terms like these:
- "liberal" or "fundamentalist,"
- "radical gay agenda" or "homophobe,"
- "baby killer" or "anti-choice,"
- "socialist" or "obstructionist."
I certainly do not expect our politicians and cable news pundits to live up to Christian virtue in their dealing with their opposition (even those that confess a Christian faith have showed that their hypocrisy is the norm, not the exception). It is readily apparent that what is more important to politicians in today's contentious congress is that they oppose the opposite party, instead of seeking what is right, they want to be seen as who is right (and I'm talking about both the Republicans and the Democrats here).
But in the fellowship of Christians, as we discuss the important issues of our day, we need to be careful of how we treat each other.
We need to check our egos at the door, decide to humbly enter into dialog, and (even while holding fast to our convictions) be willing to accept that, yes, at times, we may need to change our minds. Can we let go of our need to be right all the time?