Galatians 5:16-21

Growing up I worried about sin . . . a lot. I was constantly haunted by the thought that what I was doing might not be good enough for God. A Sunday school teacher told me that every time I sin, a mark is carved into my heart, and when I die, I will stand before God and answer for each mark. 

I’m sure she was just doing what she thought was best, just trying to give her time and talents to the church. But she did a number on me. As a kid, I would draw pictures of myself with deep marks on my heart. Think about that.

If we’re not careful, today’s verses can send us into the same panic and horror—especially the jarring verse 21: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. Perhaps the only way we think we can manage this fear is to keep a tally of rights and wrongs and hope the right column ends up longer. 

While this is a Scripture verse, it’s important to remember that it’s not an isolated sentence. It’s part of a larger conversation. Don’t make the mistake that many Christians do and pull it out of context, assuming all other verses say the same. 

Paul is setting up a dichotomy for a specific group in a specific location at a specific time. He wants the Galatians to know that Christ-followers should exhibit the fruits of the Spirit and not the sins of the flesh. If trying to manage our sins becomes the primary form of our faith, we need a better focus. Paul begins his instruction in today’s passage by encouraging us to Live by the Spirit (v. 16). We can invest our energy in pursuing and seeing all the beautiful ways in which our life births, shares, and enjoys the fruits of God’s Spirit.


What were you taught about sin growing up? In what ways have you now re-authored that in your own spiritual journey? 


Forgiving God, you hold our sins and forgive them. Give us the ability to forgive ourselves. Amen.

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