Galatians 5:13-15 NRSV
13 For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another. 14 For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.
I have discovered through writing this daily meditation that there are a lot of lines in scripture I haven’t paid a lot of attention to, even in passages that get preached with some regularity. Look at this one, for example. We are totally used to hearing about being slaves to one another, and importance of the law that tells us to love our neighbor as ourselves. But I don’t recall ever focusing on the part about biting and devouring one another.
“If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.” Wow. That’s a pretty stark warning and a vivid description of the very opposite of loving one another. It’s also a fairly good description of the examples we see every day in our society. TV shows like Big Brother and Survivor come to mind, where the very premise of the game is win at any cost - cheat, lie, steal, do to each other before they can do it to you. When focused on winning at any cost, and getting mine even though that leaves you with nothing, I am not only not loving the neighbor, I am not loving myself. When greed and the fear of not having “enough” rule my life there is little room for compassion and caring. We saw lots of that at the beginning of the shelter in place orders, when people went into stores and bought all the toilet paper, and all the hand sanitizer, and all the disinfectant wipes, and all the meat, way more than they would ever need, leaving nothing for the next person. It seems to me that this kind of behavior can be described as biting and devouring the neighbor. It is certainly not loving in any way.
“ . . .do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another.” Let the needs of the other person become more important than your own self indulgent desires. I want to keep all that toilet paper for myself, but the loving thing would be to leave some on the shelf for the next person and share what I have with someone who does not have any. The loving thing is to buy just as much meat as I need for a week or two, and leave the rest for the next person. And if I happen to have extra, share that with someone who has less.
“ . . .you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters.” We were called to break our chains and become free from sin, free from causing harm to others, free from anger, feaf and greed. Freedom allows us to see others - all others - as God’s beloved children, our own siblings, whom we can love just as we love ourselves.
Gracious God, touch our hearts that we may answer your call to freedom, loving and serving each other in Christian love. Amen