Proper 9 —
Sooner or later everyone reaches the basic truth of life: Either our lives count for something important and eternal or they are temporal and wasted. This is a strong statement that should make us pay close attention.
1. Know that what we give out, we get back.
Imagine a world in which you control a large part of what happens to you. Guess what? That world exists, and it’s the one in which we already live. Paul helps us see that God has structured life so that what we give out is what we get back. When we live in faith and love and share with others, we tend to get love back. That is the meaning of “sewing and reaping.” Farmers know that if they want to harvest rice, they cannot plant wheat.
How many people have learned late in life that living only for pleasure is often anything but pleasurable? As the text puts it, if we “sow to the flesh” we harvest “corruption.” The opposite is also true. If we live for God and “sow to the Spirit” we will reap the life of the Spirit. Most of us know people who are now physical, emotional and spiritual wrecks because they lived as if there were no tomorrow. They polluted their bodies with every imaginable drug, and poisoned their minds and hearts with perversity.
Live a life that plants love for God and love for others. When you do, you will receive that back.
2. Live from the spiritual center.
So how do we sow to the Spirit? We do that by living from our spiritual center. That is, we live in continual relationship to Christ.
That relationship becomes the most important thing in our lives. As Paul put it, “Far be it from me to glory in anything except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
When we live for God in this way, we find that other matters do not affect us the same way as they might others. For example, Philip Yancey tells the story of Rabbi Joseph Schneerson. He was a Hasidic leader during the early days of Russian Communism. The rabbi spent much time in jail because he refused to abandon his faith. He was persecuted severely for his faith.
One morning in 1927 as he prayed in a Leningrad synagogue, secret police rushed in and arrested him. They took him to a police station and beat him, demanding that he give up his religious activities. Rabbi Schneerson refused. The interrogator pulled a gun, stuck it in the Rabbi’s face and said, “This little toy has made many a man change his mind.”
Rabbi Schneerson answered, “This little toy can intimidate only that kind of man who has many gods and but one world. Because I have only one God and two worlds, I am not impressed by this little toy.” (Philip Yancey, in The NIV Student Bible, Zondervan, 1996.)
3. Become a new creation in Christ.
What matters most in life is to live in relationship to the living Christ. That brings a change in our priorities. We are no longer interested in outward, showy matters but are attracted to the eternal. Paul used the example of circumcision to explain this. He said that it does not count for anything, nor does uncircumcision. In other words, outward signs are no longer important. If that were true today, then most advertisers would go out of business! They exist to make us believe that life really would be great if we buy a certain brand of toothpaste and drive a specific car.
One thing supremely matters—that we become “a new creation.” That happens when we live in harmony with God through faith in Christ.