As a former political reporter, I’m used to America’s electoral rhythms. The president in power, no matter what party, always loses the midterms. Americans are a grumpy bunch! Most elections are about nothing more complicated than voters saying, let’s try anything but what we have now. That doesn’t stop editorial writers from opining about the obvious mistakes that led to a party’s loss. During the pandemic, that impulse to critique began taking a darker turn. It seems people are eager to blame our neighbor’s suffering on the choices that they have made.
If Paul were writing an editorial for a current opinion page, how would we receive his words?
If anyone is detected in a transgression, you who have received the Spirit should restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, he writes (v. 1). No matter how obvious another person’s mistakes might seem to us, I wonder what would happen if, instead of “I told you so,” we offered an unconditional “There but for the grace of God go I, sweet neighbor! I love you.”
Paul moves the spotlight from those who are troubled onto those of us who must decide what we will do about the problems and burdens we see. The spirit of gentleness is not an irresponsible approach, but a persistently effective one. Bearing one another’s burdens creates better community. A proactive spirit like this one actually creates a lasting harvest of goodness. Perhaps the final paragraph in Paul’s op-ed would urge us to not grow weary in doing what is right…whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all (vv. 9-10).
What helps you shift from uttering a harsh critique to offering creative instruction instead?
God, enliven us to not grow weary in doing what is right, so we will work for the good of all. Amen.