Ever been misled - you know, you believe something only to find out in the end it may not be exactly as you believed it to be? We probably are more sensitive to this type of "deception" today because of all the avenues for reproducing the deception. There is an overwhelming amount of social media where we can see all kinds of reports, only to find out some of them are phishing scams, viruses, or just plain false posts designed to lure us in. There is the entire web to "research" this cure or that experience - and we all know everything on the web is true! Our passage today deals with having a trustworthy interpretation or impression of ourselves and others - something we often don't do a very good job with, as well.
Live creatively, friends. If someone falls into sin, forgivingly restore him, saving your critical comments for yourself. You might be needing forgiveness before the day’s out. Stoop down and reach out to those who are oppressed. Share their burdens, and so complete Christ’s law. If you think you are too good for that, you are badly deceived. (Galations 6:1-3 MSG)
Many of us see the words "Live creatively..." and think about "creativity" in terms of the things we can imagine in our minds. I don't think this is what Paul has in mind here when he challenges us to live "creatively". I think he is asking us to rise above our "traditional" responses to the actions of another, not depending on how we might have "interpreted" them, but seeing them through God's eyes instead. We all have some "traditional" responses to another's actions - they disappoint us and we pout; their actions seem a little too self-absorbed and we get miffed with their selfishness; or the offense came without warning, leaving us unguarded and hurting deeply. In Paul's mind, God calls us to "transcend" our traditional patterns of responding to these "relationship issues" - in order to create meaningful and productive relationships.
At first, this may not seem like much, but when you combine it with what he goes on to instruct, you begin to feel your undies in a bundle! He presents the idea of someone falling into sin - just getting himself messed up in what he doesn't realize is going to be his undoing. Our "creative" response is to forgive and restore. In fact, we are to go one step further and curb our desire to tell him, "I told you so!" Now, if you don't see the "creativity" needed in this moment, you have never really forgiven! It is hard work to not criticize another who has fallen into sin! It requires some effort to not follow the well-formed pattern of criticizing or pointing out the failures of the one who has fallen, doesn't it?
There are a whole lot of ways we can be deceived, but here are only a few we might just want to chew on the next time we want to criticize another's actions:
* None of us is above deception. If we ever get to the place we think we are good enough to not need the hand of another to reach out to us as we are falling or to pick us up when they discover we have already fallen, we are deceiving ourselves into believing we are "better" or somehow "cut of a different fabric" than the other person. Our "traditional" reaction is to jump right into judgment - placing ourselves "above" the other person simply because they fell and we didn't. Let me just tell you, this is the most dangerous place to be - for at the top of the pedestal you may feel pretty good until the winds come and blow you off!
* None of us is capable of doing it all "right" all the time. We fail - we compromise. This is part and parcel with being human - possessing a sinful human nature. More importantly - none of us is capable of saving himself. Flounder around in waters too deep for you to touch bottom and you will soon tire of the constant effort it takes to tread water. In time, you will find yourself sinking! What we need is something to hold onto - until we can reach shore again and get our feet under us. I think Paul may have had this in mind when he asks us to "live creatively" with each other - finding ways to throw a sinking man a life-preserver and not an anchor! Forgiveness does just that! It gives us something to hold onto when we just got in too deep to have any "footing" underneath us!
* None of us possesses all the right answers, but together we might just be able to see a new perspective on an awful experience. It is our response to the experience which often determines the path the experience will take us. When we begin to move from our "traditional" response to both our own sin and that of another, we might begin to see there is more to be seen "outside" of our own interpretation of the events. Living creatively requires us to begin to challenge the "traditional" responses to both our sin and that of another. We begin to think outside of the box - maybe even getting the perspective we actually need to see God's way out of the muddle! Just sayin!