By David Faust
Amid all the talk about health care these days, God calls us to take care of our own bodies. I shouldn’t blame the government if I overstuff myself daily with excessive calories and carbs. Insurance companies can’t prevent their clients from careless drinking and driving. Education helps, but teachers and principals can’t monitor every student’s choices about drugs and sex.
Our bodies are gifts from God. Stewardship of our health is a way to give back. The same is true of the spiritual body, the church. How do we treat the body of Christ? Do we protect, feed, and nurture it? Do we build it up or tear it down?
“Bite and devour.” Sounds scary, doesn’t it? It brings to mind images of Mike Tyson in the boxing ring, ripping off a chunk of Evander Holyfield’s ear with his teeth. Lions bite and devour. Wild animals tear each other’s flesh and leave blood on the ground. It’s disturbing to think followers of Christ would ever be described in such terms, but Galatians 5:15 warns believers, “If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.”
Gossip takes a bite out of a brother’s honor. Demeaning jokes tear away a sister’s dignity. Petty quarrels rip holes in a church’s reputation and diminish its influence.
The Holy Spirit dwells in our bodies, and the church is his temple. The Spirit doesn’t create carnivorous Christians who bite and devour fellow believers and destroy the body. When we walk by the Spirit, we “serve one another in love” (5:13). We love our neighbors selflessly, putting aside “hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, and envy,” along with other sinful deeds (5:14-21). We cultivate the “fruit of the Spirit,” and these are not merely private character traits.
The Spirit’s fruits are distinctive marks of Christian community: “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (5:22, 23). We demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit (or the lack thereof) in the way we relate to others. Our attitude toward our neighbors reveals whether or not we are allowing the Spirit to make us more like Christ.
If you break your arm, you don’t respond by intentionally breaking your other arm. While the broken limb is in a sling, we compensate for its weakness until the bone heals. Likewise, a healthy spiritual body doesn’t inflict further pain on those who are wounded. Members of the body adjust, support the weak, pray, and work toward healing.
What if someone is caught in a sin? ”You who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently” (6:1). Don’t destroy—restore. What if others’ problems are too heavy for them to carry alone? “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (6:2).
Does this mean we should pamper the members of the body who refuse to exercise and feed themselves on God’s Word? No, as a general rule the Lord expects us to accept responsibility for our own spiritual condition, “for each one should carry their own load” (6:5). But when the burdens are too crushing to bear alone, the rest of the body compensates and helps to carry the load.
The health of Christ’s body is every Christian’s concern. “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers” (6:10).
1. Have you ever been “bitten” by another believer?
2. Is the fruit of the Spirit evident in your attitude toward others?
David Faust serves as the Associate Minister at East 91st Street Christian Church, Indianapolis, Indiana, and Chancellor of Cincinnati Christian University, Cincinnati, Ohio.
The Lookout’s Bible Reading Plan for June 1, 2014
Use this guide to read through the Bible in 12 months. Follow David Faust’s comments on the highlighted text in every issue of The Lookout.
2 Samuel 20, 21
2 Samuel 22
2 Samuel 23, 24
1 Kings 1
1 Kings 2, 3