When Believers Bite
Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The latter do it out of love, knowing that am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ out of rivalry, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. —Philippians 1:15-18
Bites hurt! I remember when I was in junior high and a neighbor’s aging Great Dane took a surprise lunge at me and sunk its teeth into my arm. I had known that dog for years, so when it bit me it was a total shock. And wow, did that bite hurt! Today, I bear a scar on my arm in memory of that bite.
The apostle Paul’s circumstances were rough at best. He was in jail for boldly proclaiming the great news of Jesus Christ. While in jail for Christ—wham! Out of the blue, he gets bitten. The bite is not from a dog, but from a few members of his very own family—his own brothers in Christ. How sad is that? And, wow, how that must have hurt!
Most of Paul’s brothers and sisters in Christ were deeply grateful and concerned for Paul. Most were being challenged to live with increasing boldness for Jesus Christ as a result of his example. That was the reality with most, but then there were the “some.” The “some” were a small number of individuals that were envious of Paul and saw him as a ministry rival rather than a ministry partner. The “some” saw Paul’s imprisoned situation as an opportunity to bring him down. So they lunged and sank their teeth into Paul.
This would seem to be the time for Paul to wield his apostolic authority and have those boys taken to the dog pound. Or maybe these circumstances would be the final straw for Paul to throw up his hands and walk away from ministry thinking, “This is ridiculous! People are a pain! I’m out!” Instead, even in the pain of the bite, Paul remained single-minded: “. . . whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.” Paul saw life as all about Christ, all about the name of Jesus being lifted high and wide—even when believers bite.
Have you been bitten by others? Maybe even been bitten by a brother or sister in Christ? Bites hurt! And some bites bear lasting scars. Yet, our lives are not about our comfort. Life is not about me and it is not about you. Life is about the fame of the name of Jesus Christ. Therefore, even in the pain of the bite, when Christ is proclaimed, “in that I rejoice.” —Doug Helmer
· When was the last time I was “bitten” by a brother or sister in Christ? How did I respond?
· Are the scars I bear from previous injuries reminders of my choice to forgive, or do they point to a root of bitterness?
Prayer – Almighty Father in heaven, sometimes I have to shake my head at how believers behavior toward one another. I confess that I have been “bitten” and have also done some “biting.” Forgive me for that. Help me to keep my focus on You and Your glory, and not on the pain of my wounds. In Jesus’ name, Amen.