Galatians 6:1-10 (NRSV)
6 My friends, if anyone is detected in a transgression, you who have received the Spirit should restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness. Take care that you yourselves are not tempted. 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. 3 For if those who are nothing think they are something, they deceive themselves. 4 All must test their own work; then that work, rather than their neighbor’s work, will become a cause for pride. 5 For all must carry their own loads.
6 Those who are taught the word must share in all good things with their teacher.
7 Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow. 8 If you sow to your own flesh, you will reap corruption from the flesh; but if you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life from the Spirit. 9 So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up. 10 So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith.
Growing up, my two younger brothers would have cavity after cavity, and though I ate the most candy, I never had one. We got Evy’s “Vacation Fun” book, where she writes a whole story about seeing candy, the scent of candy being in the air, so much so she could almost taste it. She’s a child after my own heart.
Though Josh and Caleb didn’t eat near the amount of sugar I did, my senior year of high school we moved and it all changed. Dr. Anderson, our new dentist, got a lot of money from my parents. I had 7 cavities that year. It had all caught up to me and my brothers said after all of those years skirting by after they received filling after filling, I deserved it.
Out of the verses in this passage,you reap what you sow is probably the most famous and one of the most commonly used Biblical passages in the vernacular. Even Urban Dictionary has a definition for it. It begins by saying it’s the basic nature of God’s justice. It gives us these definitions: 1. Everything that you do has repercussions. It comes back to you in one way or another. 2. You cannot escape the consequences of your actions. 3. You will see the long-term effects of your actions. 4. What goes around comes around. Terrence Trezvant ends his post this way, “Sow a thought you reap an act. Sow an act, you reap a habit. Sow a habit, you reap a character. Sow a character, you reap a consequence.”
I always want to know the context for a verse. Both what the writer of the letter is trying to say and where it is in the passage. Paul was writing a letter to the Christian communities in Galatia. He was battling the controversy of Gentiles not adhering to Mosaic law, such as circumcision. You see, the Galatians were converted directly from Paganism and some of them became Judaizers, which means they followed all the laws, living like Jews. Paul’s arguing against this in many of his letters. It’s a constanttheme in his epistles that you put your faith in Christ alone or the law of the Messiah, which requires living life in community. Love God and love neighbor. So you see in verse 6:2, “2 Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” and this you do in care and compassion as verse 1 makes priority. Be gentle with one another, but be firm in convictions so as not to be tempted, however, this not leads to lack of personal responsibility.
The college students that I’ve worked with didn’t have very many universal feelings, but they all detested group projects and they would come to me from time to time to gripe and commiserate with one another about how their group was the worst. It’s true for group projects, you have to bear one another up but it’s not an excuse to let one group member do the work, and not take personal responsibility, not put forth your best effort, or not to do your fair share. It’s grace and accountability. You’ve got to give people grace, but you also have to hold them accountable. It’s a balancing act. Verses 4 and 5 says each person must answer to God individually, testing and taking pride in their own work. Isn’t that a relief? We don’t have to judge others, we are only responsible for what we put in the world. I’m reminded of Trezvant’s words, “Sow a thought you reap an act. Sow an act, you reap a habit. Sow a habit, you reap a character. Sow a character, you reap a consequence.”
How are we to sow to the Spirit and what are we to sow? Simple things like smiling at someone. Angela Johnson is a Deacon of the South Carolina Annual Conference serving in Atlanta at Action Ministries and she wrote on facebook the other day, “Be still my heart.” Daily, I encounter individuals and families who are homeless. While I cannot immediately change their circumstances, I know that I play a role in helping people obtain housing. A gentleman told me today that “my smile encouraged him and gave him a sense of hope.” I do not share this to brag about myself, but want to encourage you that small things can make or possibly change someone’s life/situation/or circumstance. Be the light…so others may see Christ in you.” Galatians itself gives us the answers in chapter 5 verses 22-23 talking about the fruit of the Spirit. “22 By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things.” If we plant these fruits of the Spirit as little seeds, and cultivate, nurture, water and tend them then they will burst forth from us.
My mom had this tape that she bought us when we were little by the Bill Gaither trio. It had a song called “Input Output.” I actually looked up the lines. I warn you that they’re really cheesy and outdated but the concept is still the same. Input output that is what it’s all about
Input output what goes
In is what comes out
Input output that is what
It’s all about
Input output your mind is a computer
Whose input output
Daily you must choose
Let the Bible be your primary feed
It’s got all the data you need
Talk to Jesus all the time
That’s the way that
You can stay on line
If your printout reads to lie or cheat
There’s some data you should delete
Debug your mind of sinful bytes
Then you will operate all right
It’s a simple concept. What you put into your life is what comes out. You can either sow seeds of peace, joy, and kindness or sow seeds of duplicity, malice, and destruction. We have to be connected to the true vine, Jesus, to get our daily nourishment through prayer, reading the Bible, worship, walking through God’s creation, meditating on a scripture while you exercise. God nourishes us in many various ways, but we have to stay connected. John 15:1-6, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine-grower. 2He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. 3You have already been cleansed–by the word that I have spoken to you. 4Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. 5I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.” That’s the key to this whole thing, we can’t do it on our own. No one is “good” enough. No one has a corner on the kingdom. There’s not a giant sticker chart in the sky that you are able to earn gold stars for and get into heaven. The only way to finish the race is by the grace of God. Psalm 51:10-12 says, “10Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.11Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your holy spirit from me.12Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit.”
It’s a God action, not a human action,but because of the grace God has given us, comes great responsibility and that leads us to our last two verses, “9 So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up. 10 So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith.” You will hear the phrase “do not grow weary in doing what is right” echo in the Bible. Don’t be weary in spending time in God’s word and seeking to live it out. Don’t be weary in planting seeds of the fruit of the Spirit. Don’t be weary of praying for your family, friends, community, and country. Don’t be weary in serving God with all that you have. As John Wesley says, “Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.”
We can support each other on the journey to sow seeds of light. We don’t have to do it alone, remember we bear with one another. Archbishop Desmond Tutu says, “Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.” Together we can shine a brighter light. Together we will reap a great harvest. You have to choose to sow the seeds that produce good things and it’s sometimes hard. As Dumbledore says in the Harry Potter series, “It is not our abilities that show what we truly are. It is our choices.”
Let me close with a couple stories that I think illustrate this passage. This is an example of how a single choice of whether to sow good or not can greatly impact others. STORY NUMBER ONE Many years ago, Al Capone virtually owned Chicago. Capone wasn’t famous for anything heroic. He was notorious for enmeshing the windy city in everything from bootlegged booze and prostitution to murder. Capone had a lawyer nicknamed “Easy Eddie.” He was his lawyer for a good reason… Eddie was very good! In fact, Eddie’s skill at legal maneuvering kept Big Al out of jail for a long time. To show his appreciation, Capone paid him very well.
Not only was the money big, but Eddie got special dividends. For instance, he and his family occupied a fenced-in mansion with live-in help and all of the conveniences of the day. The estate was so large that it filled an entire Chicago City block. Eddie lived the high life of the Chicago mob and gave little consideration to the atrocity that went on around him. Eddie did have one soft spot, however. He had a son that he loved dearly. Eddie saw to it that his young son had the best of everything: clothes, cars and a good education. Nothing was withheld. Price was no object. And, despite his involvement with organized crime, Eddie even tried to teach him right from wrong. Eddie wanted his son to be a better man than he was.
Yet, with all his wealth and influence, there were two things he couldn’t give his son; that he couldn’t pass on a good name and a good example. One day, Easy Eddie reached a difficult decision. Easy Eddie wanted to rectify wrongs he had done. He decided he would go to the authorities and tell the truth about Al “Scar face” Capone, clean up his tarnished name and offer his son some semblance of integrity. To do this, he would have to testify against The Mob, and he knew that the cost would be great. So, he testified. Within the year, Easy Eddie’s life ended in a blaze of gunfire on a lonely Chicago Street. But in his eyes, he had given his son the greatest gift he had to offer, at the greatest price he would ever pay.
STORY NUMBER TWO
World War II produced many heroes. One such man was Lieutenant Commander Butch O’Hare. He was a fighter pilot assigned to the aircraft carrier Lexington in the South Pacific. One day his entire squadron was sent on a mission. After he was airborne, he looked at his fuel gauge and realized that someone had forgotten to top off his fuel tank. He would not have enough fuel to complete his mission and get back to his ship. His flight leader told him to return to the carrier. Reluctantly, he dropped out of formation and headed back to the fleet. As he was returning to the mother ship he saw something that turned his blood cold. A squadron of Japanese aircraft was speeding their way toward the American fleet. The American fighters were gone on a sortie, and the fleet was all but defenseless. He couldn’t reach his squadron and bring them back in time to save the fleet. Nor could he warn the fleet of the approaching danger. There was only one thing to do. He must somehow divert them from the fleet. Laying aside all thoughts of personal safety, he dove into the formation of Japanese planes. Wing-mounted 50 caliber’s blazed as he charged in, attacking one surprised enemy plane and then another. Butch wove in and out of the now broken formation and fired at as many planes as possible until all his ammunition was finally spent. Undaunted, he continued the assault. He dove at the planes, trying to clip a wing or tail in hopes of damaging as many enemy planes as possible and rendering them unfit to fly. Finally, the exasperated Japanese squadron took off in another direction. Deeply relieved, Butch O’Hare and his tattered fighter limped back to the carrier.
Upon arrival he reported in and related the event surrounding his return. The film from the gun-camera mounted on his plane told the tale. It showed the extent of Butch’s daring attempt to protect his fleet. He had in fact destroyed five enemy aircraft. This took place on February 20, 1942, and for that action Butch became the Navy’s first Ace of W.W.II, and the first Naval Aviator to win the Congressional Medal of Honor. A year later Butch was killed in aerial combat at the age of 29. His home town would not allow the memory of this WW II hero to fade, and today, O’Hare Airport in Chicago is named in tribute to the courage of this great man. So the next time you find yourself at O’Hare International, give some thought to visiting Butch’s memorial displaying his statue and his Medal of Honor. It’s located between Terminals 1 and 2.
SO WHAT DO THESE TWO STORIES HAVE TO DO WITH EACH OTHER?
Butch O’Hare was Easy Eddie’s son.
The choice is yours. Know what you sow.
Let us pray.