Little nips…

As I sat at my dining room table studying this morning, enjoying the solitude before the kids wake up and the hustle begins, I paused to watch my aquarium for a bit. It’s set up as a 55 gallon Cichlid tank, with 5 medium to large Cichlids and a monstrous plecostomus. Cichlids are pretty fish, known to be very colorful, and mine are no exception. My favorite are the two Jack Dempseys. They are black with shimmery gold, blue and green speckles on their sides. My wife’s favorite is the Blood Parrot cichlid, which is not blood red at all, but a vibrant orange. Well, this morning I noticed that the Blood Parrot had some scales hanging off him, like he had been bitten. This is the downside to having this kind of tank setup. Cichlids are also known to be aggressive and apparently someone has taken some bites out of Orange’s side (yes, his name is Orange according to my kids). These little nips won’t kill him, but there will be some healing involved, and while he’s healing he will be sore, separating from the other fish to avoid further aggression.

I couldn’t help but think of Galatians 5:15 – “But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another.” How easy it is sometimes for us as Christians to bite and devour each other, to be so critical and aggressive with each other just because someone doesn’t seem to have the same standards or practices as we do. Don’t misunderstand, there is a time for teaching, young Christians need to be taught what the Scriptures say concerning living for God but there is also grace. There is patience. There is understanding and even longsuffering. All of these things have been shown to us by a merciful God, so why do we feel like we get to go around nipping at others. Our carnal minds may be quick at forming a snarky quip, but that doesn’t mean that we should actually say it. If you really want to help someone that you feel is living contrary to God’s Word but should know better then there is a Biblical method for handling it, found later in Galatians 6, v. 1 – 3. In fact, it’s a 3 – step program:

                    1. First, Make sure your spirit is right.
                              Galatians 6:1 – “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.” Before we even begin to help someone we have to make sure that we are in the right spirit and attitude and that spirit is indicated pretty clearly – the spirit of meekness. The spirit of meekness does not nip, it does not bite and devour.
                    2. Then, consider where the other person is coming from.
                              Galatians 6:2 – “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Circumstances do not give us an excuse to sin but if we can see what is driving someone away from the Lord then perhaps we can help to bear their burdens, drawing them back to Christ. Rather than attack someone let us learn to see where they are hurting and help them heal in Christ.
                    3. All the while, remembering that we ourselves are nothing. 
                              Galatians 6:3 – “For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself.” If we are able to help restore a brother in Christ it is because of Christ in us, not because we are so wise and Righteous in ourselves. It is because we ourselves have been restored by God’s grace and mercy.
So next time you feel like taking a bite out of your neighbor or your brother/sister in Christ, prayerfully remember my fish with the pitted, scarred sides. While your nipping may not destroy someone you might just leave them wounded, hurting and ultimately scarred.
Galatians 6:18 – “Brethren, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen”