April 27, 2021

No Biting!

by Dr. Oliver Wagner

"The whole law is summed up in a single commandment, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another."
Let me rephrase the Apostle Paul’s advice to the first-century church in Asia Minor: “You have a choice to make: either we live together in love and peace or we will destroy ourselves with hostility and there will be nothing left.” Gentleness and humility, two of the ancient virtues of our faith, are in short supply these days of self-promotion and aggression. Neither does our fast-paced and competitive culture put much value on grace or patience. Kindness and goodness sound like words from centuries past and not nearly as important as power, riches, success, fame and control. I long for those ancient values of character to be cherished and prized once again. I pray for people to treat one another with respect and dignity fitting of God’s children.

Families and friendships can be devoured by angry words and hateful actions. So can churches and countries. I think of the song from the 1960s which says “battle lines are being drawn; nobody is right if everybody’s wrong.” Battle lines are everywhere, it seems. Over voting, wearing masks, the climate, police reforms, vaccines, equality and the list goes on.

Diversity is a gift and a part of our life together. General George Patton famously said, “if everybody’s thinking the same thing, somebody’s not thinking!” The challenge and calling of God’s people is to celebrate our human diversity while finding some kind of greater unity and harmony. Love builds up; biting and devouring defeat and consume. I recall a pastor in his 90s at a presbytery microphone in the midst of fights over this, that and the other. “Folks” he scolded us “if we keep fighting and growing hostile every time we disagree, there isn’t going to be much left of the church.”

The better way for us is love, a love patterned after God’s sacrificial mercy that blesses us. Grudges divide but forgiveness binds us together into one harmonious and diverse body. Today, try not to bite, judge and devour “the other.” And don’t support or encourage those who do. Instead, pursue the more perfect way of God’s law, which in a word is “love.” As the famous chapter of 1 Corinthians 13 says, “Love is patient, love is kind, love is not irritable or resentful or arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way but rejoices in the truth.
Let the fruit of your Holy Spirit grow in me, God of grace and truth. Let your gifts of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, self-control, faithfulness and gentleness be not only my way, but our way with each other, that we may dwell together in a more just and peaceful world. Amen
Alpharetta Presbyterian Church
180 Academy Street, Alpharetta, GA 30009
770-751-0033 www.alpharettapres.com