Tuesday, September 3
Now the works of the ﬂesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, 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 Jesus have cruciﬁed the ﬂesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit. (Galatians 5:19-25)
Because the Christian vision of experiencing unity with God is so hard to comprehend, many people choose instead to focus on fellowship with their family and friends. Having good relationships with the people we love is a wonderful goal. However, by prioritizing our “unity” with loved ones over a connection with God, we might actually be undermining our own eﬀorts.
Every relationship we have goes through diﬃcult times. The same fears, anger, and sin that aﬀect our connection with God also infect our relationships with loved ones. Whether it is our own unhealthy habits that rise up to cause problems or the other person’s issues, all long-term relationships hit bumps and roadblocks along the way. Just because we care about someone doesn’t mean we know how best to love them!
In the end we discover that unless we are in a good place with God — receiving grace and being transformed by God’s presence — then we do not have the “tools” necessary to build, nurture, sustain, and enjoy the healthy relationships with others we desire. Paul makes this same point when writing to the church in Galatia. When we are enslaved to sin rather than set free by God (“the works of the ﬂesh”), the result is seen in both a broken relationship with God (idolatry, sorcery, enmity) and broken relationships with people (fornication, impurity, licentiousness, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels...).
It is not by accident that the liturgy we share at Holy Communion reads, “make us one with Christ, one with each other, and one in ministry to all the world.” That order matters! Closeness with God enables us to ﬁnd closeness with others, whom we now see as broken children of God, just like us. When we have received unconditional love and grace from God, we can oﬀer those gifts to the people in our lives.
When people who have experienced divine grace gather to worship God, fellowship with one another, and serve Jesus as Lord by serving the world around them, we call that “church.”
Our goal in this study may be to learn how to grow into a stronger, more faithful community, but unity in our congregation is only possible to the degree to which we invest time and energy in developing our connection with God.
• Do you agree with the statement “unless we are are in a good place with God — receiving grace and being transformed by God’s presence — then we do not have the ‘tools’ necessary to build, nurture, sustain, and enjoy the healthy relationships with others we desire”? Why or why not?
• Our Holy Communion’s Great Thanksgiving liturgy reads, “make us one with Christ, one with each other, and one in ministry to all the world.” What comes to mind when you hear “one in ministry to all the world?” What does that “ministry” look like?
• Do you like the deﬁnition of church oﬀered above? How would you deﬁne “church?”