The Creative  Life?

What does it mean, to live creatively? Galatians 6 begins (in Eugene Peterson’s fabulous Message) thus:

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.

Galatians 6:1-3 (The Message)

At first I was puzzled. I had this passage memorized in another version: “Brothers, if someone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, looking to yourselves ’cause it could have been you” (a unique paraphrase).

But “Live creatively”? He’s not saying to write a song or paint a painting or start that Great American Novel; so what is he talking about? Here’s how I take it: what’s the opposite of “creative”? Sure, “boring” and “monotonous” are opposites to “creative,” but what does he mean here?

For a clue to what Peterson means by “creative,” notice that the passage says to “forgivingly restore” someone who’s fallen into sin. What’s the alternative? Here are a few:

  • Breathe a sigh of relief that I didn’t get caught myself;
  • “Don’t ask, don’t tell”
  • Gossip about that person–“How horrible! Can you imagine? What could they have been thinking?” and so on
  • Do 85% of what they did and hope that I don’t get caught

I think it would be fair to consider those alternatives as living destructively rather than creatively.

I’ve recited that passage dozens of times — I even looked at the parts before and after it — but never thought of it as living creatively. And living creatively in that sense brings to mind the concept of “abundance thinkers” — the idea that because God is more generous and loving and kind than we can imagine, we can live like “sons” of a rich and generous Father — because that’s who we are.

(btw I read somewhere that the word translated “son” doesn’t have as its primary meaning “male subset of those called ‘child'”; rather, the word translated “child” emphasizes the fact of birth, whereas the word translated “son” emphasizes the relationship. That’s why Paul writes in Galatians 3 that we are all sons of God, and that in Christ there is neither “male nor female“)

This morning’s sermon

I’d started this post before we went to church, and today we heard a sermon talking about just this thing. [transcript] (A mere coincidence? I don’t think so. It’s like we were both listening to the same Spirit or something like that.) “Scotty” Scruggs was preaching on Matthew 7:1-5 and drew an analogy between morality and dentistry. Suppose you go to the dentist, he began, and the dentist finds some issues. Here are three possible approaches the dentist might take:

  1. Condemnation: “You obviously haven’t been flossing, you wicked and lazy person!”
  2. Indifference: “Probably you’ll need a root canal here, but how ’bout them 49ers? We’re on the don’t ask, don’t tell plan here.”
  3. Advocacy: “To have the kind of dental health you’ll want in the future, here are a few steps to consider.”

So when a brother (or sister) falls into any trespass, Paul is saying, advocacy with mercy is what we want to have. Not indifference (my natural tendency) and not condemnation, but loving advocacy with mercy.

I’m going to try to remember that this week. Pray for me please?

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