It’s Labor Day, a day to honor workers in this nation, and with a global economy, we can’t honor just our labor here. We import so much now. So we have to consider our labor that comes from all over the world. We have the largest income gap known in centuries. As we speak, or listen, there are 10 million people enslaved in the world, bought and sold like cattle. While most of the slave labor is for domestic products (used in their own countries), exports of chocolate and carpets are child labor intensive. Let’s start off this portion of our worship with a small prayer of silence. But as the days and weeks go on, I ask that we allow this to prick our hearts so that we no longer buy, sell, or trade without considering the workers and their working conditions.
Moment of silent prayer
Our scripture today is labor intensive. Let’s look at it verse by verse:
Turn with me to Galatians 6 in your bibles. Or follow on the screen. If you had to go through and circle all of the verbs or instructions for things this author expects us to do, there would be continuous circles and overlaps.
Verse 1) We are good people, born with that of God in our beings. We are told to help people to get back on the right track without judging them harshly. We are to be gentle. But we have to be careful.
It is so easy in trying to be gentle to forget we have boundaries ourselves and that there are many points in which we might want to cross those boundaries just to make that person feel better. When you have been caught in sin, it is normal to feel embarrassed. That is part of the human nature, and our jobs as Christians is not to lessen this reaction or to make them to not know they have sinned, but to say, “What you did was wrong. I know you must feel bad about this. We can’t have that any longer. How can I help you to change?” Gentle yet firm; loving yet strong; humble yet helpful – why?
Because if we don’t have the way for them to change, they can’t restore the relationships they have harmed. All of us potty trained our kids. That did not mean we didn’t love them. All of us try and teach them how to eat in public – we expected them to change, to grow, and as Christians, to grow spiritually all of our lives – Don’t be tempted think that love is equal to acceptance of behavior. Some acceptance is good. That is you having good boundaries. But blanket acceptance of all behavior regardless of the ramifications on the community or on ourselves is not what is called for.
It is a myth that we as Christians, even as progressives and liberals. are not to change anyone or ask anyone to change. The bible is about change and transformation. We believe in repentance and in restoration of right relationships.
But it is not about changing for our sakes but helping the person to be more whole and to be more able to have a good relationship with God and other people. Sins and bad behaviors are burdens that create walls between us and God’s leadership. People are hurt by them all the time, personally – that is the one with the bad behavior is many times, lonely, needs friends, maybe is in an abusive situation because they don’t know the right resources to find a healthy relationship. This is very common among abused women that no one taught them the dysfunctional behaviors that was attracting abusive people to them. We are bearing a burden by loving but expecting people to get rid of their dysfunctional behaviors or the behaviors that keep them out of right relationships with each other and or with God, or attracting the negative to them. We want all people to prosper and to grow.
This is one of the ways that we fulfill verse two of Galatians 6. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.
The next can be somewhat tricky. If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. Delusions serve a purpose, so go carefully here. We had a man that we called “Golden Throat” because he thought he could sing and he sang a lot, but he honestly made up in passion what he lacked in talent. When it got to being twice to three times he sang every Sunday, we had to ask him to sing less. Not knowing how to do this without offending him, finally someone said to him, “Jim, we love you dearly. We don’t want to hurt your feelings. But honestly, that belongs in the shower and not in the pulpit.” Now she was a sweet elderly woman who played the piano on weekends for the local jazz musicians in Biloxi where this happened. And if it had been any of the rest of us, it wouldn’t have worked.
But imagine if she had said this and gone out on the limb, and four people would have said in his defense, to keep him from being hurt, “You sound fine to me.”
She was the kind one. She was the brave one. She also taught voice lessons so he knew it was spoken not just with love and kindness, but with authority. As Christians, that is what we need to have – voices of love and authority so that we can take the burdens of self deception away when it is necessary.
Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else. If we followed this in our daily lives, ministry would come to each of us easily.
Let’s moved down to verse 7 and think about this – Every person reaps what we sow.
There were rituals that had been followed for thousands of years – during the first fruits – you gave them away.
But when it came to the second fruits you pulled from your garden or farm – you kept it for seed.
What are the fruit of the spirit? Aren’t those the fruit we are supposed to be sowing?
How do we sow the fruit of self-control? Every time that something happens and we want to swear or we want to speed or we want to scream at our children or spouse – then our choices to keep these behaviors in check sow a seed of self control. But what if I do it in private? Well, then, God is not mocked when you do it in private. Don’t you know that you are important? You are your harvest. We have been taught too much that the harvest is outside of us – but these verses are about us. Our internal workings. We have to sow in our own hearts all of the fruit of the spirit, and then when we interact in the world, they will know there is a difference.
What if you created, by planting in your own spirit, self control, kindness, love, joy, endurance, peace, faithfulness and gentleness? You will attract to you what you put out.
Do good people have bad things happen to them? Yes, we do. All the time. But not as much as people who don’t care how they live.
Do not grow weary in doing good – that means when you start to get grumpy or sore to stop, right? Nah, but it is a cue. Enlist others, help others to grow through delegation, and don’t think you are the only one who can do something right – back to the Golden Throat idea. Sometimes we have to share the stage with other people who can’t sing. And that’s ok – it is a time in life to be aware of the gift of learning humility.
Of all the labor movements we need to start and keep going, the one in our souls will be the most enduring in time, always needing more than we can give it.