For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 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. But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. Gal. 5:13-16
Dear heavenly Father, thank you for documenting the relational failures of your people. It helps us repent of idolizing the perfect community. It also helps us from becoming cynical or hopeless, and disengaging with our churches and other believers. The fact that you’ve chronicled just how poorly we love one another in the Body of Christ is a witness to the steadfastness of your love and the depth of our brokenness. We need the gospel every day, every hour, in every relationship.
These stories of relational madness also serve as a warning and wooing to much healthier ways of relating. That we “bite and devour one another”(Gal. 5:15) is a sad fact; but it’s not our fate and it’s not okay. One Day we will be made perfect in love. Sear and seal this hope upon our hearts, and may it be the fuel for earnest reflection and eager change.
Come, Holy Spirit, come. Grant us godly sorrow and deep repentance for the ways we hide the beauty of Jesus in our churches through our pettiness, immaturity, and selfishness. Never let us get used to loving poorly. Forgive us for confirming the stereotypes of our culture—that we’re really no different than they are, with or without Jesus.
Forgive us, Lord Jesus. You’ve made it clear that the world will know that we are your disciples by the way we love one another. You’ve also made it clear that the quality of our relationships is one of the ways the world will believe that our Father sent you to be the Savior of the world (John 17:20-23). No wonder they remain unconvinced.
Bring the power of the gospel to bear upon our shared and broken life in the body of Christ. Indeed, your grace doesn’t free us to love poorly, but to love generously, extravagantly, in keeping with you love us. Grace is not a green card for self-indulgence; it’s the power for servant love. So very Amen we pray, in your holy and loving name.