A rambling post about some of my thoughts from bible study tonight.
I’ve been in the group for a number of months, but I’m still getting used to being a participant in a group after many years of leading one, and a year of not going to one at all.
Tonight we looked at Galatians 6. For the last few months at church the sermons have been on Galatians, and the studies have tried to keep pace, more or less. I had my head down in my Reader’s Greek New Testament for some of the time, trying to keep my knowledge of New Testament Greek alive as much as possible.
Having a Greek bible in a bible study context is a constant tightrope walk for me. I’ve done a bunch of theological study over the years so that I can understand the bible better, but I don’t want to give the impression that (a) I consider myself better than other people just because I’ve had such opportunities or (b) that another person’s opinion of the text is somehow invalid because I’ve studied more. So I’m very hesitant to bring out any specific “in the Greek it says this” kind of talk, as I think it’s just distracting and unhelpful.
This blog is a different story, I guess: please bear with me as I throw some Greek words into this post and try and explain them a little.
I found verse 1 pretty distracting as I tried to figure out what was going on in the Greek…
6 Ἀδελφοί, ἐὰν καὶ προλημφθῇ ἄνθρωπος ἔν τινι παραπτώματι, ὑμεῖς οἱ πνευματικοὶ καταρτίζετε τὸν τοιοῦτον ἐν πνεύματι πραΰτητος, σκοπῶν σεαυτὸν μὴ καὶ σὺ πειρασθῇς.
Let me try and translate it for you… I’m pretty rusty at this, and I don’t usually publish my attempts at translation. Sorry for any masculine-centricity in the translation: there’s a tendency in the Greek to use male pronouns (e.g. Ἀδελφοί – brothers as in Philadelphia – the city of brotherly love, ἄνθρωπος – man as in anthropology), but that’s the way the language worked: a reflection of the culture of its day.
Brothers (or sisters), if [also] a man/person happens to be caught in any sin/transgression, you (plural) the spiritual ones – restore such a person (the this one) with a humble spirit, while watching out yourself also, [that] you are not tempted.
The word that threw me was προλημφθῇ – the fourth one in the verse. It’s a “subjunctive 3rd person passive”, so it’s a conditional kind of verb. It’s made up of the preposition προ – in front of, and the (first week of Greek study vocal word) λαμβάνω – I take hold of. The English version I had in front of me said “caught in any transgression”, but I hadn’t seen that particular word for “grab hold of” before.
So it’s the kind of sin that you keep coming back to, whether you particularly want to or not. When someone is stuck in a situation like that, the Christians around them are meant to restore them gently, being careful not to be tempted by the same sin.
That whole verse reminds me of many conversations I’ve had with people who have moved on from being involved in a church: when they had some kind of struggle, instead of being restored gently, they felt like they’d been asked to leave, and never darken the door of a church again.
It’s a sad situation, and tough to remedy: once you associate Christianity with self-righteous people who are keen to judge anyone around them, it’s a tough association to break.
Ultimately, it was these few verses that jumped out at me.
7 Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. 8 For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. 9 And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. (Galatians 6:7-9, ESV)
We talked about the good things and the bad things that we’re doing, and how – on a long enough timeframe – these things that we put energy into, good or bad, will become more and more a part of our character.
At some level, this sounded like karma, but at a more personal level. It was a challenge for me to look at how little time I’m spending actually reading the bible (as opposed to reading about it, or about church history), and to push aside some of the playing-iPhone-games-while-listening-to-podcast time to make space for it again.