“For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'” – Galatians 5:14
The whole chapter five of Galatians is worth a good long read. It is about the subject of Christian freedom, which the writer imagines is a kind of slavery to love. It is about the difference between the law and grace, using circumcision as an example, concluding that it matters little if we are or are not circumcised. Instead it matters a lot how we talk about the subject to each other.
Maybe you don’t need to read this chapter. You may have no issues about right and wrong, cultural customs, the right way to dress, the right foods to eat. You may never have spoken of chocolate cake as “sinful” or scoffed at someone who was obese. You may tolerate all points of view and never pass judgment, even silently to yourself. If so, you can skip this chapter.
If, however, you find yourself intolerant of difference, unkind when someone smokes in public or brings a dog to a meeting, sit down for the long read. You will learn what it means to be in love with each other. You will also be brought to attention by the warning that sometimes when we “bite and devour each other,” we actually find ourselves chewed up, even consumed.
Be kind. Fall in love. Think less about circumcision, ancient or modern, and more about love.
O God, we pray that we can be a little yeast that leavens the entire dough of community and that when we are gone, people miss us because our kindness is lost. Amen.
Donna Schaper is Senior Minister at Judson Memorial Church in New York City. Her latest book is Approaching the End of Life: A Practical and Spiritual Guide.