Gather • Devotion 4

Nobody Wins in a Bite-fight
Sierra Combs

“For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.” Galatians 5:14-15

After 12 years of parenting two very easy-going, well-behaved, calm, and mild children, everything changed. God gave us a third. We named her Clementine, which means merciful and mild. With our track record of the other two kids, I naturally assumed she would be just that. I was wrong. The child is not mild and she is not merciful. She is quite the opposite. She is extremely busy, loud, stubborn, and relentless to get what she wants. I have never seen such strong of a will in someone so young, and that personality showed up from the get-go.

Around her first birthday, she became every church nursery's worst nightmare - a biter. Luckily for the children and workers of our church, she has yet to make her move. My household has not been so fortunate. We have all been bit by cute little Clemmie on multiple occasions, sometimes drawing blood and leaving marks that have lasted for days. As a one-year-old who cannot easily communicate her needs and wants, biting seems to be her go-to. Angry? Bite. Sad? Bite. Trying to be silly, bored, just wants attention? Bite, bite, bite. It is painful and exhausting and has sent me asking friends and scouring the internet for advice on how to make her stop. I was surprised to hear a particularly strange piece of advice suggested by many people - just bite her back! They say that one time is usually all it takes to stop them from ever biting you again. Apparently, this is a common suggestion to deal with biters. Before you send me a concerned email, I did not take the advice. I know my kid - if I bit her back it would start a war. She would 100% retaliate by biting me even harder, and nobody wins in a bite-fight.

In this week’s portion of Scripture, we find ourselves in Galatians chapter 5. Paul was addressing the Christians living in Galatia who had fallen into disunity. It is 2,000 years later and nothing has changed. We still all naturally want to serve ourselves rather than others. We want what we want and we think we know best, and often time we can become so angry and bitter with fellow believers who have differing viewpoints, that everyone loses.

In Galatians 5:15, Paul warningly tells the church “But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.” The words here are much stronger than a Clementine type of bite. Rather, it is the striving to sting, gulp down, and devour one another as wild beasts would do, going so far as to not only fight to one party's death, but to fight until everyone is destroyed.  

Paul gave a strong warning that by their intense contention and disunity, they were not only going to destroy each other’s happiness and spirituality, but also hurt the witness and reputation of the church as a whole. Everybody loses. This warning is still so important today, and we would be wise to follow Paul's urging to keep our spiritual vision sharp. When we do not stay alert, we can easily wander back to serving our flesh which will always lead to contention and disunity with other believers. I have seen friends and families destroyed over such matters.

Churches that were once used mightily by God are now just pillars of smoke rising from the ruins of bitterness and wrath. Meanwhile, the weary world is so focused on the smoke that they cannot see Jesus. As I said, EVERYONE loses!

So how then do we avoid this detrimental problem? The Bible sums it up in verse 14, “For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” It is as simple as that - love. Love those around you, not just the believers (and non-believers) who agree with you but the ones who do not. Truly love them and serve them! Resist the urge to bite them, even if they strike first, and even if they are wrong. Can you imagine what the church would look like if we truly loved each other despite our differences and disagreements and unified around the Gospel of Jesus? We would change the world!






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