People say the Bible is confusing, that God changes from ‘Old Testament wrath’ to ‘New Testament love’, that the rules and regulations are contradictory. We need to read the Bible with the help of the Holy Spirit because then things become easier to understand. It’s very clear in the readings today that there’s a choice for us to make between black and white – truth and error – right and wrong.
Paul in Galatians 5 lays it out straight. We can choose to produce good fruit (Gal 5: 22-23) or bad fruit Gal 5: 19-21). Anyone who is mature would want to produce the former; after all who wouldn’t want to be known as a loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle and self-controlled person? Paul ends his list of good fruit by saying there’s no law against these things. They are signs that we are being guided by the Holy Spirit and not by our sinful nature.
But isn’t it true that according to the world that list of characteristics is worthless? Love, joy and peace get a pass as acceptable so long as we understand that love wears out, joy is totally dependent on things going well and peace is an unobtainable ideal. People who demonstrate patience are considered doormats to be walked over and pushed aside whilst kindness is considered to leave us open to being abused and taken advantage of. Gentleness is scoffed at as weakness and goodness mocked as ineffective. No-one is expected to be faithful to anything once it becomes ‘boring’ and self-control is only good for working out and dieting.
This is the choice we face each day. Do we live as the world urges us: dog-eat-dog, best man wins, every man for himself without concern or care for anyone except ourselves or those who matter to us? Or do we consider the command to love others as we love ourselves? Do we pause and make the choice to let the Holy Spirit change us and our response to situations around us?
Paul says if we follow the ways of sin then we can’t inherit the Kingdom of God. Isaiah describes that Kingdom beautifully in chapter 35. Read that chapter and tell me your heart isn’t dancing for joy – and if you are fortunate enough to know that old chorus that it’s not ringing in your head.
Tell those who worry, the anxious and fearful,
“Take strength; have courage! There’s nothing to fear.
Look, here—your God! Right here is your God!
The balance is shifting; God will right all wrongs.
None other than God will give you success.
He is coming to make you safe.”