Lectionary Sermon for Fourth Sunday after Pentecost

Galatians 6:1-16 Am I (We) Being Prideful?

Pride has been called the chief of sins. Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall. (Prov. 16:18 NIV) Did you know that pride can infect us without our being aware? Pride, in our relationship with God and with others, can blind us to our arrogance and ignorance.

Galatians 6:1 states, “Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ.”

I cringe when I read this text. For 40 years I tried to get church members to grasp what this Scripture is saying concerning how we care for one another without very much success. I attribute this failure to two things. First, my own limitations and weaknesses in carrying out the task. The other is that people seem to find satisfaction in finding fault with others. Not only do people find it easy to judge another person’s behaviors and actions but they also seem to feel it necessary to judge others, to punish others. I doubt most people who attend church in America believe that other Christians are their brothers and sisters. They may use the words brother and sister but that is it. The most terrible things that have happened in my life were caused by people who claimed to be Christian.

Verse 3 drives the point home, “If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves.”

How dare we judge others when we ourselves are sinners who are hopefully saved by grace. Jesus told this parable, “”Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. (Matt. 7:3-5 NIV)

Paul reinforces this teaching by telling us, “Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, for each one should carry their own load.”

Why do we human being compare ourselves with one another? Why do we feel the need to compete? Probably for the same motivation that we blame others for situations we choose to participate in. The natural nature, the sin nature, pushes us against others, still trying to make us believe we too can become gods. Jesus was pretty clear, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. (Matt. 7:1-2 NIV)

No matter what we do, God knows all and sees all. We cannot hide anything from God. There are no excuses we can give to God. Paul warns and gives hope, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.” Perdition or promise, these are the two paths of life.

The promise of eternal life is not some time in the future, but a promise we can begin to enjoy now. God gives hope. God gives us love. God gives us a new heart and mind that should be able to see God working in everything. Those who seek first the Kingdom of God find out just how much joy and happiness this can bring into a person’s life. A Kingdom attitude-of-living understands this life will be hard. This life is hostile to us. This life will have pain, suffering, sickness, and sorrows of all shapes and sizes. However, in the midst of this difficult fallen world, the promises of God are there for us despite situations or conditions. Yes, we will get tired but as the Scripture tells us, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

In serving the church as a pastor I have always tried to find a Scripture that would help the church in being the church. I would often use this verse because it speaks to the challenge of Christian living in a fallen world. It is easy to get tired, frustrated, and weary. This weariness can overcome a person unless you learn to be reflective and always remember, that GGod is the one who gives us purpose. If you are seeking to do the will of God, God will provide the energy and endurance to continue. Isaiah 58:11 tells us, “Where God guides, God provides. This is a promise we can count on.

“Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” The early church faced opposition from without and corruption from within. You could be labeled a criminal just for attending a worship service for Jesus. The early church community found out just how much they needed one another. This was totally counter-cultural. Christians not only cared for their immediate family but for the members of the church family universal. Christians even loved those who persecuted them. This is not normal as far as the world goes. It is expected in the family of God.

In verses twelve and thirteen we are told, “Those who want to impress people by means of the flesh are trying to compel you to be circumcised. The only reason they do this is to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ. Not even those who are circumcised keep the law, yet they want you to be circumcised that they may boast about your circumcision in the flesh.”

Circumcision was part of the old covenant. It was a ritual of identification and symbol of linage of the promise to Abraham. It identified the males of Judah/Israel. It was not a means of salvation. And while circumcision did reflect obedience to God, the coming of Jesus changed all that. Jesus became the fulfillment of circumcision.  

In his letter to the Romans, Paul teaches, “What advantage, then, is there in being a Jew, or what value is there in circumcision? Much in every way! First of all, the Jews have been entrusted with the very words of God. (Rom. 3:1-2 NIV)

Any opportunity, any identity, any ritual that is cooperative with the Holy Spirit is an advantage. It is a means of grace, but it is not salvation. Jesus is the only means of salvation. The Kingdom of God was no longer to be identified with an act of circumcision of the flesh but instead a circumcision of the heart. This is why Paul goes on to say, “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.

Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is the new creation. Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule– to the Israel of God. (Gal. 6:1-16 NIV)

Paul understood the theology behind circumcision very well. He understood how it made people prideful. He understood how it could be used as a ritual of control. He grasp how it could be a block to our being servants of God. We may not struggle with circumcision, but we have plenty of other things we can be prideful, judgmental, and thus sinful about.

We must be on our guard. We must be discerning of spirits. We must be reflective, contemplative, and seek to serve as the Word guides. When we do, we will find peace and mercy. Peace and mercy from a God who loves us more than we can imagine. Why would we not seek to grow in faith and follow such hope? Amen.