Recently, I was struck by a few short sentences from the apostle Paul:
“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.”
Since the beginning of the pandemic, it’s been brilliant to see how Christians have responded to this crisis with compassion, generosity, and creativity. Answering the call to love their neighbours, churches have worked harder than ever to address the needs of the most vulnerable in our society.
But notice how Paul warns the Galatians not to become weary of doing good. He seems to know how we all tick, doesn’t he! Shocking headlines naturally awaken something in us: compassion, activism, community-spirit. And the initial flurry of activity can sweep us along … but only for so long. It’s all too easy to become weary of doing good. The call to love our neighbour as our self can be inconvenient and exhausting. No wonder Paul encourages his readers to dig in and keep going.
And perhaps it’s at this point that the church needs to hear this message more than ever. For many, life is beginning to return to what we might call “normal.” Schools are partially open. furlough is coming to an end. We are much freer to meet with friends and family. Give it a few weeks, and your local pub will even be open! As news cycles and social media feeds move on to other stories, it would be very easy to overlook the ongoing effects of this pandemic.
As lockdown eases for many, there will still be hundreds in our communities who must continue shielding. Our new freedoms could easily exacerbate a growing sense of their continued isolation. There are others who understandably fear the end of furlough, as this will almost certainly mean redundancy. Still others have found that the last few months have taken a serious toll on their mental health; as they emerge from lockdown, they’ll need care a support.
It’s quite natural for us to feel overwhelmed by these, and other, pressing needs. It’s no surprise that we feel weary; an initial surge of generosity often peters out over time. And Paul knows this. That’s why he is not appealing to our “human nature,” when he encourages us to keep going. For Paul, doing good for the long haul is born out of new life in the Spirit. This new life continues to bear its fruit: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).
Paul frequently talks about two contrasting ways of being human: life in the flesh and life in the Spirit. This life in the Spirit is a radical, miraculous break from normality. It’s a break from how we ordinarily tick. It’s not an instant transformation; rather, we’re invited to live life empowered by God’s Spirit. Paul gives the Galatians, with their new sense of freedom, this encouragement:
“You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’”
Just a few verses later, the same invitation is put differently: “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25).
Throughout the Covid-19 crisis, churches have been very aware of this unique opportunity to extend the love of Christ to those in need. As lockdown eases, this opportunity continues. In fact, as much of society returns to some kind of normality, our efforts to love our neighbour may begin to stand out more clearly than ever.
Perhaps you’re feeling weary of doing good today. You won’t be the only one. But as Christians, we live by the Spirit. He is with us. Let’s pray for God’s ongoing power to do good, as the opportunity arises. And let’s remind each other that our efforts aren’t in vein: “at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9).
Miles Tradewell | Minister