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Wednesday, June 29, 2022
Today’s Scripture Reading | Galatians 5:1, 13–25
For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
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 enslaved to one another. For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.
Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law. Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity, debauchery, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. And those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit. (NRSV)
I am thinking today about generosity, in particular the phrase “generosity of spirit.”
There are different definitions, but I think of it as the willingness to extend good faith and understanding to someone else. Someone perhaps having a hard time. Perhaps not acting in the moment in a way we are comfortable with.
And so we offer patience, kindness, gentleness. And sometimes a fair bit of self-control as well.
This would certainly be fruit of the Spirit, yes? All admirable, all lovely characteristics to see in action.*
But all too often I see this generosity extended primarily—or only—to those who fit our idea of “us.” I see this in the media, for sure, but I hear softer, quieter versions of this too.
But “for freedom Christ has set us free.” For freedom—ours, and everyone else’s.
We have been set free, called to serve others in love.
But in a world organized on division—and self-interest as a means of maintaining division, whether our own individual self-interest or that of the groups we see ourselves kin to—it’s not enough to act only out of what we think of as “love.” We must also actively consider whom we might be leaving out of that love.
(Do we bite? Do we quarrel? Do we envy? Do we fear?)
“Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”
The yoke of slavery is sometimes subtle, requiring only that we do not take care, that we set limits on whom we consider our neighbor. That we let our blind spots stand. How well do we seek to serve?
*(For more on the fruit of the Spirit, see Rocky Supinger's reflections in this month's series of brief Rhythm and Word videos, where “Fruit of the Spirit” is the June theme.)
Liberating God, may I seek always to love my neighbor as myself and, guided by the Spirit, to always grow in that love of self and of neighbor. Amen.
Written by Simon Crow, Program Manager, Discipleship and Small Group Ministry
Reflection and prayer © Fourth Presbyterian Church
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