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Do Good to One Another

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And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.

- Galatians 6:9-10

This little verse, tucked away near the end of Paul's letter to the Galatians, provides a wonderful, if somewhat surprising, way to build God's kingdom. He has just introduced the principle of reaping and sowing: that is, "you reap what you sow." If you "sow to [your] own flesh," you will "from the flesh reap corruption." However, if you "sow to the Spirit," you will "from the Spirit reap eternal life" (v. 8). With that principle in view, he exhorts the Christians in Galatia, "And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up" (v. 9). If it's true that we will reap what we sow, then we ought to be energized by faith in God's providence to labor diligently "doing good," because we know that our efforts in that direction will yield the good fruit of the kingdom. The good fruit of gospel growth. So it's quite natural, then, when his conclusion to this reasoning is the final exhortation of this section: "So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone..." (v. 10a).

But here's the surprising part.

We may be inclined to think - to assume - that Paul has in mind here doing good to outsiders. To our neighbors, co-workers, and strangers in our town who don't know Jesus. If the fruit of the kingdom is our goal, and diligently doing good is what yields this fruit, then we would expect him to say, "Do good to non-Christians," because that work will bear kingdom fruit. But look at the second half of that verse (italicized below):

So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, especially to those who are of the household of faith" (v. 10).

Who is the "household of faith?" The church. Christians. Followers of Jesus who belong to him, and who are linked by voluntary covenant with one another in a local church, and by common faith with Christians in other places. Paul seems to think that gospel growth, that kingdom fruit, will come from Christians doing good to one another.

God's grace is evident in a special way when Christians do good to each other. God's love is on display when someone goes to the hospital to visit an ailing church member. When an able-bodied believer does grocery shopping or yardwork at the home of an elderly Christian who can't do those things for himself. When an older woman in the faith invites a younger woman out for coffee, so she can learn about her life and offer counsel and prayer. When two church members who don't know each other well decide to meet up to read and discuss a Christian book together. Consider what we learn of God's mercy when an offended Christian extends forgiveness and friendship to someone in the church who's treated them poorly. When members of the church comfort the grieving, tend to the sick, provide for the needy, and instruct the simple within their own congregation, God's love is displayed in a special way.

This is entirely consistent with what Jesus himself said to his disciples during the Upper Room Discourse in John 13:

"By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another"(John 13:35).

He didn't say the world would know they belonged to Jesus by their love for those outside the church, but for those within it. A gospel-centered community giving and sharing this kind of humble, servant-hearted love, puts the glory of God on display in a way that no individual act of kindness in your neighborhood can.

By all means, do good to your neighbor! I wouldn't want in any way to diminish the importance of Christians doing good to those who don't yet know Christ (and especially the good of sharing the gospel with them). But let's heed the exhortation of Paul, and the teaching of Jesus himself, to prioritize doing good to those "who are of the household of faith."

Because know that "in due season we will reap, if we do not give up" (Gal. 6:9).