When I was growing up, one of my favorite books was called No Fighting, No Biting! Mostly, I think I liked it because it was the story of two alligators (Light-foot and Quick-foot), but the basic message clearly got through as well as I remember it to this very day!
And it remains an important message even now. In my family there were five kids, and I can still hear my mother’s constant refrain, “No fighting, no biting!” Clearly, if there were occasions to disagree in a family of five, there are going to be even more such occasions as the number of people we are in relationship with increases. St. Matthew's Episcopal Church is a family of several hundred people (if you are not from St. Matthew’s you can think of your own church, family, place of work ,neighborhood, etc). The apostle Paul says, “No fighting, no biting!”
I’m also struck that consuming somebody through biting is to devour them one small bit at a time. It’s not a pretty picture, but I think it accurately captures all the little niggling ways we negatively relate to each over that over time become are so hurtful and destructive.
Yes, there will be conflicts. But that doesn’t mean we need to resort to violence, using our words as instruments aggression, speaking in such a way that we hurt or wound or disrespect our brothers and sisters in Christ. What a powerful line verse 13b is: Through love, become slaves to one another. Slaves are bound to their masters. In other words, our freedom from the law of which Paul has been writing does not free us from our bonds to each other in Christ. We’d best learn to get along.
And that means: No fighting, no biting!