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Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Wednesday Festival: Biting and Devouring

Ring member Margaret is pondering Paul's advice to the Galatians and the nature of Christian disagreement:

If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not
consumed by one another.
This line from Galatians 5 jumped out at me this morning as I listened to the lessons being read. Biting and devouring isn't usual Sunday fare, thanks be to God, but I wonder if it was usual Sunday - and maybe even daily - fare for the new Christians in Galatia. It's such colorful language for sniping and fighting!

I suspect I bite and devour sometimes even though I feel like I bend over backwards doing just the opposite. When others begin to do so, I try to ease the tensions or simply walk away rather than get involved.

But there are times when we have to stay and fight. It seems to me the various parts of the Anglican Communion have been biting and devouring lately - or should I say once again or still. A part of me wants to jump into the fray and do a little biting myself. Part of me wants to walk very far away, even out of the relationship. But that feels like I am letting the biting and devouring consume me.

If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not
consumed by one another.
Take care that you are not consumed by one another, says Paul. It sounds to me like we have permission to disagree even to the point of taking chunks out of each other but that we are never to go for the knockout punch. Hmmm.... I would love to know what Paul was talking about, wouldn't you? Is he saying, "If you are going to argue, don't walk away mad" or "If you are going to fight, don't draw blood?" It's hard to know, isn't it.

But it refreshing to see that Paul doesn't seem to be saying that we should make nice just for the sake of keeping the peace. We shouldn't paste that plastic smile on our faces and pretend everything is fine. Somehow we are meant to engage each other about our differences. It ought to be a loving disagreement with each of us listening to the other and thinking about how best to respond without saying "well, that's just stupid," no matter how obliquely we try to do that.

So I guess biting and devouring are not generally appropriate behavior amongst the greater family but Paul is realistic enough to know we will still try it on once in a while. 'When you do," he seems to be saying, "take care not to cause the other - and hence, ourselves - irreparable damage. Always leave the discussion with the door still open and all the bodies intact.

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  1. Praying that there isn't too biting and devouring going on at our GA!!!
    Check out my Monday, July 5th post for some neat pictures of a great Reformer's house at signs-along-the-way.

  2. actually... I'm not biting or devouring much of anything, but as I blogged about The Outermost House I discovered some interesting formative influences.

  3. I could, and have in the past, said a lot about this. Churches can be harbors for some very unhealthy people and behavior. Churches tend to tolerate the unhealthiness because we think it is the Christian thing to do. There is a difference between Christian love and simple passivity in the face of cruel behavior or bad boundaries or any other kind of disruptiveness. Paul articulates well, in Ephesians 4, how we are to be the Body of Christ. It includes healthy responses to contain bad behavior. It includes instruction on to not being consumed by the biting...

    that said, it can still be very hard to NOT be consumed.....

    Thanks, MB and Margaret...


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