I have had the opportunity to do some writing recently around the Fruit of the Spirit. As I was re-visiting the verses from Galatians 5 in different translations, I was taken aback when I came across the New Living Translation of chapter 5:19-20. Although I have heard these scriptures probably more than a hundred times, the words took on new meaning (as God’s living and breathing Word will often do!)
Take a look:
“When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, your lives will produce these evil results: sexual immorality, impure thoughts, eagerness for lustful pleasure, idolatry, participation in demonic activities, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, division, the feeling that everyone is wrong except those in your own little group.”
Although we should never take scripture out of context or focus on only one part of the text, I was so drawn to the words, “hostility, quarreling, outbursts of anger or the feeling that everyone is wrong except those in your own little group.”
One of the blessings (or curses) that I have been given is a very high level of empathy. For as long as I can remember, I have been keenly aware that there is always more than one side to every story and that I can’t judge the actions of another based only on my perception or my knowledge of a situation. In some cases, this has served me well. In others, it has caused me to be seen as weak, not willing to take a stand or as a people pleaser (which can also be true of me). I could tell you story upon story where my kindness to someone was mistaken as weakness and where others wanted me to stand more firmly against something. Although there have been times when I have wondered if those folks are right, I always land on the side of “I just don’t believe I have to be unkind to those I may disagree with nor do I believe I always have to be right.” I do not get it right every time, I’m human and sinful, but I pray that my heart in every situation is to be a peacemaker and to help folks get along better without giving up their passions and convictions. Jesus did it…and if we truly call ourselves His followers, then we should at least try.
As almost every issue in our culture seems to do these days, Covid-19 now has us in camps (or our “own little groups”) as to what we believe is true, how it should be handled, who is right and who is wrong. In recent days, I have watched my social media feed become full of “hostility, quarreling, outbursts of anger and the feeling that everyone is wrong except those in your own little group.” It’s political, it’s a hoax, it’s big business, it’s fake news, wear a mask, don’t wear a mask, my freedoms are being taken away, we are being given freedom too soon, government isn’t doing enough, government is doing too much…” and on and on.
I am not one who believes we don’t have the right to our own opinions and I know that God gave us brains to use them to make our own choices and come to our own conclusions (in light of the Gospel). The fact that there are many opinions is not necessarily what concerns me. My concern is HOW we express those opinions and whether or not we are humble enough to give pause to the fact that someone else’s opinion could be right…specifically in light of their own situation. Many have provided the illustration that we are all on the same wavy ocean, but we aren’t all in the same sized boats. How we respond to this pandemic (and many other issues) will have EVERYTHING to do with our own situation and how we are directly impacted; however, we must be mindful of those whose situation looks different from ours and “love our neighbors as ourselves.” Taking a step back to think about the stories of others and their perspectives will help us to know how to help and how to better navigate our own choices without being detrimental to their physical or emotional needs.
As believers we are reminded, “let us follow the Holy Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. Let us not become conceited, or irritate one another…” Gal 5:25-26
It is entirely possible to have honest discussion without becoming angry. It is entirely possible to disagree with someone without belittling them or calling them an “idiot.” It is possible that there are two (or more) right ways to do things. It is possible “by the Holy Spirit’s leading” to exhibit peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness and self-control.
It is also possible to hide or unfollow those folks who make your blood boil without engaging in “hostility, quarreling or outbursts of anger.” Just sayin’.
Through on Purpose Coaching I provide tools to help you improve personal and professional relationships, live purposefully and discover the abundant life we are promised as believers in John 10:10. I would love to hear from you. Please reach out if I can help in any way!