If someone had provided you with a detailed list of what it meant to be a Christian, would you have “signed” up? Sure the benefits are outstanding, but what is required of us is often very challenging. Biblical injunctions to love others as we love ourselves, turn the other cheek, not render evil for evil but repay evil with good, forgive as Christ forgave us, be patient with others, “bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use you,” to name a few, are not always easy to apply. Yet it is our Christian duty to persist in cultivating these behaviours even when our experiences are the opposite.
These thoughts came to mind as I reflected on Paul’s words as recorded in Galatians 6:9-10, Amplified: “Let us not grow weary or become discouraged in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap, if we do not give in. So then, while we [as individual believers] have the opportunity, let us do good to all people [not only being helpful, but also doing that which promotes their spiritual well-being], and especially [be a blessing] to those of the household of faith (born-again believers).” Here Paul, writing under the Holy Spirit’s inspiration, readily acknowledges that as we carry out our Christian duty we can become discouraged in doing good, especially to others. To keep on loving when that love is not returned or is abused, to keep respecting when one is being disrespected, to respond with patience and kindness when confronted with impatience and rudeness, to continue to show regard and care when treated with disregard and indifference, to be relevant to others who make us feel irrelevant; all of these behaviours and more can become wearisome. The lack of positive and affirming responses to our efforts from others can take a toll on our psyche and thus affect us physically, psychologically, and ultimately spiritually.
It is relatively easy for some of us to get to that place where consistently living out the practical side of the Christian life feels like a burden. Not that we want to be there, but the human side of us that is wired for reciprocity, the practice of exchanging things with others for mutual benefit, desires that exchange. We are tired of things being one-sided. This often unmet desire for reciprocity and how we respond to it is one of the applications of Paul’s admonition – “Let us not grow weary or become discouraged in doing good.” In other words, keep on doing good even when that good goes unacknowledged, unappreciated, and you are the only one doing it. Easier said than done, I know, but when we avail ourselves of His strength and grace it can be done.
Why should we even bother? First, Jesus tells us, “that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 5:44-45). Second, the apostle tells us, “for at the proper time we will reap, if we do not give in.” For the latter to happen it means God has to be taking notice and that He is keeping good records. It means that the things we persist in doing despite the responses and attitudes of others do count for something. What we regard as unfair will be reconciled in our favour at some point. At the proper time we will reap, if we do not give in. Do you trust God and His promise enough to keep going?