While visiting friends we reminisced about pets owned by our children. We went through the list: goldfish, rabbits, guinea-pigs, snake, dog and hamster. There may well have been more. The sad tale was told of Salt & Pepper — two hamsters looked after by our children. They cohabited happily until the day we could find only one. Shortly after we discovered bones. Salt had eaten Pepper.
It is not only hamsters that have an unhealthy appetite for flesh of their own kind. People can be just as cannibalistic. Paul warned the Galatians, “If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.” (Galatians 5:15 NIV11) How can we avoid cannibalism in the church? Three tips:
- Serve One Another. It is hard to eat someone you are serving. Serve them rather than see them as a serving. Paul tells them, “do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.” (Galatians 5:13 NIV11). Having a hard time with someone in church? Look for an opportunity to serve them — with good intent, mind you, not to shame them!
- Walk By The Spirit. If we walk by the Spirit our appetite will be for godly things, not whatever seems tasty at the time, “walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” (Galatians 5:16 NIV11). Revenge might look delicious, but it will turn out to be pernicious. Our forgiveness depends on retaining a heart of forgiveness towards others, “when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” (Mark 11:25 NIV11) If you have been wronged, remember that God will deal with the perpetrator in His good time, “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.” (Romans 12:19 NIV11)
- Live by the Spirit. When we live by the Spirit we enjoy the fruit of the Spirit, “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22–23 NIV11) As we live in obedience to God’s teachings more and more of the fruit of the Spirit develops in our lives. When we are filled with the fruit of the Spirit our own appetite is satisfied and we have no hunger to do others ill. Indeed, we would rather do them good.
Shortly after eating Pepper, Salt died. Was it shame? Was it indigestion? I think it was loneliness. You may feel better for a while if you take revenge on a fellow-Christian, but you will end up lonely. Who wants to sit next to a cannibal at church?