A Troubling Verse

A troubling verse

There’s a verse that I come back to a lot, because I need to. But somehow, it seems to get me in trouble with other people.

In the summer of 1987, I went on a mission trip with my church youth group, to Dauphin Island, Alabama. This was the longest trip I had been on, outside of family vacations, at that point. I don’t remember every detail of the trip, but certain things have been etched in my memory, and in some ways have impacted me to this day.

The great friendships that only come from traveling and serving together. I still keep in touch with several of the others from our group.

Visiting the Seamen’s Mission in Mobile, where men from all over the world could come for a meal, a place to stay (and stay out of trouble), and to hear the Gospel. I still have a small New Testament written in Tagalog (one of the principal languages of the Philippines), from that visit. I think it was the first time I really began to grasp that there are countless people from a myriad of cultures who speak many different languages, and that God knows and loves each and every one of them – and speaks their language.

The Hawaiian Ice stand that set up right in front of where we were staying. Even if no one else had visited them, they would have made a nice profit just from our group. We were experts at sno-cones, but we had been limited our entire lives to flavors like grape, cherry, orange, green and rainbow. Having options like “Strawberry Shortcake” and “Key Lime” almost sent us into a frenzy.

We arrived just in time for the Fishing Rodeo. I’ll be honest, I didn’t even know such a thing existed. But for several days, people from all over came to Dauphin Island to fish. Including the guy who caught a seven-foot shark just a stone’s throw away from where we were staying (and, up until that day, swimming. Gulp).

The young girl from Jackson, Alabama who, after listening to us St. Louis folks (Yankees) talk, blurted out – in a very pronounced Alabama accent – “Y’all talk fun-ney!”

The band. They weren’t part of our group, or what we were doing, but they were staying in the same place, and were there to minister to the crowds from the fishing rodeo. For several afternoons and evenings, they set up right next to the Hawaiian Ice stand, and played their stuff. Their name was “Remembrance.” They probably weren’t great, but they were good. It was fun to hear them playing live. And since we were around quite a bit, I got to know some of their songs. But the one that stands out, the one I can still hear in my head after all these years, came straight from the Bible.

“Don’t be deceived, God can’t be mocked. A man will reap whatever he sows.”

These are Paul’s words to the Galatian Christians. The funny thing is, they are words that, at face value, you’d love to be able to use as Bible-based ammunition against someone who “done you wrong,” or who at least isn’t doing things the way that you think is appropriate.

“Watch yourself, fella! You’re not fooling God, not one tiny little bit – Galatians 6:7!” we shout, shaking our fist in the air. Boom, I guess we showed them. Sorry it had to be so messy, but God has spoken, and that’s the way it is.

Unfortunately, Paul rarely, if ever, spoke in single sentences. These words aren’t meant to be launched at someone else, but to remind us who we are, keeping our pride in check as we serve the people who may or may not have done something wrong. Here is the entire passage, including the heading found in most versions of the Bible:

Bear One Another’s Burdens

“Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. For each will have to bear his own load. Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches.

Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith. (Galatians 6:1-10 ESV emphasis added) “

It’s pretty simple, really. Today, what am I living for? Is it to somehow point people toward Jesus in everything I do, or do I put on that face so that people will look at me say “What an awesome guy!” Aside from the fact that people rarely think I’m as awesome as I do, and these efforts are wasted, what a dumb idea anyway. I may fool some people, and get them to think nice things about me, but none of them suffered and died for me so that I could have a restored relationship with the Creator of the universe.