Explore the Bible: True Compassion

The Explore the Bible lesson for Oct. 14 focuses on Galatians 6:1-10, 14-15.

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  • The Explore the Bible lesson for Oct. 14 focuses on Galatians 6:1-10, 14-15.

A verse from last week’s Scripture text has relevance for this week’s lesson: “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit” (5:25). As circumcision was a mark of those who kept the Law, the mark of the Spirit is what proves the Christian to be born again and transformed.

We are surrounded today by groups, cliques and clubs that use defining marks to prove their belonging. What are some of these marks, and why are they important to their groups? Being a Christ-follower is not a closed opportunity as some of these groups are, yet the mark of the Spirit can only happen through being transformed, such as a “slave to sin” becoming an “heir of God.”

Since the Spirit “enables believers to care for others out of a pure motive,” we are reminded of how critical and vital the Spirit’s leading is to our lives. For us to exercise the true fruit of a Spirit-filled life, we need to be drawn to live compassionately as we are led to keep in step with the Spirit.

Guards (Galatians 6:1-5)

Compassion to restore people seems absent in our culture. As divisions in the United States widen, we see “mud-slinging” aimed at degrading humans, judging them for their (sometimes repented of) past, with no desire to restore them. Conviction seems eternal, and while justice may prove this right, there is a hatefulness that is anything but Spirit-led. What are some recent, specific examples of this?

Paul tells us to “restore gently,” as well as help carry “burdens,” and all of this without stroking personal pride. In fact, having a heart for restoration seems antidotal to pride. What are some good and bad real-life examples of restoring gently and carrying the burdens of others?

Restoration is a prerequisite to discipleship: a person has to be restored to God before he or she may follow God. As each of us has been guilty of succumbing to sin, so we should expect this will be the case for others. Also, as each of us has the opportunity to be restored, so we should also prepare to help others in their need for restoration.

Stewards (Galatians 6:6-10)

The visual of an open pair of hands offers a stunning picture of what it means to both receive and give freely. A closed pair of hands may hoard what it holds, but it will not be able to gain anything else. What makes us fear “keeping our hands open” to give and receive freely? Why do we tend to be tight-fisted?

The sowing and reaping imagery takes us back to Jesus’ agriculture stories. This is simple, and relates to the popular saying that “you get out of it what you put into it.” Ask your group: Why do we get tired of “sowing” good? Why does Paul remind us to take advantage of every opportunity to do good to all people?

There is an added urgency to the opportunity to steward our Spirit-led lives because “as we have opportunity” gives the sense of “while we have time” (L. Ann Jervis, Galatians, 154). The Spirit is eternal, but our flesh is not; we need to make the most of our time, seeing “doing good” as an urgent and joyful task.

Proclaimers (Galatians 6:14-15)

Even for the Spirit-led life, there always is concern about turning back to fleshly desires. This sin can include both desire and pride. Here, Paul shows himself as an example of a person who chooses not to boast in how “good” and “Spirit-led” he is; rather, he points to Jesus, not himself.

When we are faithful to follow the Spirit, this means every action is meant to reflect glory back to the Son. Every good act we do should point to Jesus. Every time we keep our pride at bay, it should point to Jesus. Each time we show compassion, it should magnify the compassion of Jesus. Why is this so important? Why should we not get some credit?

The cross is the focal point: there is nothing we have and there is nothing we do that is possible without Jesus dying on the cross for us and then defeating death by rising again. Being led by the Spirit is only possible because Jesus went the way of the cross. How is being cross-centered difficult? What makes “boasting” in Jesus such a challenge?

Conclusion

We mentioned how there are “marks” of groups earlier. For motorcycle groups and clubs, it might be their jackets. Tattoos, secret handshakes and other eclectic things are all used to “mark” a person as part of an organization.

While the Spirit is the “mark” of a believer, notice verse 17. Paul said, “I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.” What exactly did he mean by this, and what does this have to do with the message of Galatians? This is not necessarily stigmata language; instead, it is likely he has suffered along with Jesus and rests in Jesus’ truth.

Being compassionate, offering restoration, forsaking pride, continually doing good, and all these “marks” of following the Spirit also will bring marks of pain, because they speak to a heavenly truth, not an earthly desire. When we restore sinners, the world will want to dehumanize us. When we do good to others, the world will mock us. The question we have to answer is simple. Is following the Spirit worth it to me in spite of how hard it will be?

Heath A. Kirkwood is lead pastor of First Baptist Church in Lorena.

 

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