In a classic scene from The Pink Panther Strikes Again, Inspector Clouseau walks into a German hotel and notices a small dog by the counter. “Does your dog bite?” he asks the hotelier.
“No,” the old man answers.
When Clouseau goes to pet the dog, it viciously attacks him and tries to chew off his hand!
“I thought you said your dog does not bite!” Clouseau says.
To which the old man says, “That is not my dog.”
Paul also warned the Christian community about getting bit:
For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another! (Gal 5:14-15).
Here is another “one another” command—among 58 or so in the NT. Except this one is not a command so much as a caution.
The context was legalism.
Jesus freed believers from the Mosaic Law. Salvation was by grace, through faith, apart from works (Eph 2:8-9). What amazing news!
However, even if you believed the message once, it was hard to keep on believing it—especially for Jews. After all, they spent centuries living under the Law and being persecuted for it. Were they really free from the Law?
It seemed too good to be true.
And legalists from Judea were all too ready to tell them it was too good to be true.
It happened in Antioch (Acts 15:1), where even Peter became confused and had to be corrected by Paul (cf. Gal 2:11-16). And now it was happening among the churches in the province of Galatia (cf. Gal 1:6).
What was the solution?
The Galatians had to stand fast in Christian liberty and not be “entangled again with a yoke of bondage” (Gal 5:1, 5).
Legalism is like dominoes. As Paul explained, wanting to be circumcised meant trying to be justified by the law, which meant falling from the high ground of the experience of grace (Gal 5:4).
If anyone wanted to fulfill the law, he should focus on loving and serving each other, not on circumcision (v 6, 12).
And that’s when Paul warned against biting and devouring each other.
Of course, Paul was speaking figuratively, comparing in-fighting within the church to the behavior of wild animals fighting over a piece of meat. Paul did not say the Galatians were doing that, only that they risked going down that downward spiral if they fell into the trap of those legalistic disputes.
That’s what the law does—it kills!
Now apply that to your Christian community. Is it built on law or grace?
If your fellowship is legalistic, you’ll experience a downward spiral of condemnation and criticism, chewing each other up until there’s nothing left to devour.
If it’s built on grace, you’ll stand fast in liberty and bear with each other in weakness.
So, does your church bite?
If so, remember, when you meet as the church, you should consume the Lord’s Supper, not each other!