But if you bite and devour each other, be careful that you don’t get eaten up by each other! – Galatians 5:15 (CEB)
I’ve been extra snappy lately. I’m more on edge, more easily frustrated. My tolerance for missteps and mistakes—mine and others’—is way low. There’s this persistent undercurrent of irritability. I’m primed to lash out and bite at someone. Every comment feels like criticism, and I quickly move from defensive to offensive!
I don’t think I’m the only one feeling this way. I often witness this online, and too often in exchanges between church people. Sometimes, even when folks are in agreement, they start snapping at each other. Hungry for a fight, we bare our teeth and start gnashing, chewing someone out. Then others catch the scent of the meal and pile on, nipping and biting until everyone is all eaten up: the Body of Christ, devoured and consumed by hundreds of bites from its own teeth.
I’m not longing for some kind of performative civility. I’m longing for grace. Some empathy, compassion, restraint. No, don’t stay silent. Yes, respond, call out, call in. But I need to pause a hot second and check if I’m fixing my mouth to speak or to take a bite out of someone. Chewing someone out might fill me up for a minute, but it ultimately makes me sick to my stomach and leaves the other person deeply wounded.
I want to curb my appetite for this kind of accidental cannibalism. Instead of “hangrily” biting at others, I want to be hungry for justice and righteousness.
Holy One: Help me hunger for justice and righteousness instead of hungering for a fight. Amen.
Chris Mereschuk is an Unsettled Pastor in the Southern New England Conference with a call to transitional ministry.