The following post is an excerpt from a book I am writing on loving others relentlessly in a world that tears them apart. Last time I posted we were talking about the dysfunctions that we see in the Church worldwide. This is not specific to any local church environment that I have been in but based on my experience with the Church with a capital “C”…as you can plainly see. Dr. Seuss would have been proud of that last sentence.
“Galatians is a book written to the early church that urges them to stop living a life of deception and embrace “true life” in Jesus. This group of Jesus followers had bought into the idea that the gospel was true. Let me de-church that for you really quick. In other words these people believed that Jesus was indeed the Son of God, He was in fact God, and that He lived a perfect life, performed miracles, loved the unlovable and then was tortured and killed on the cross for our sins. That death on the cross then paid a penalty we couldn’t pay and we were then free to have a direct relationship with the God that created the universe.
That’s not where it ends though. Jesus then came back from the dead. Sound crazy? It kinda is. However these people that followed Jesus and witnessed both His death and resurrection were then willing to die for what they believed and never let go of that idea, even when they were being tortured. That’s even crazier.
They would take it a step further though. They would go on to say that anyone who believed and trusted in this act and in Jesus (faith) would then be able to have the same relationship with God. But let me emphasize something for a second, it was only through belief and trust that this relationship was accessed. Not by any religious act, not by some great and daring good deed, and certainly not by some religious person clearing you from guilt. It was only by belief and trust in Jesus. That’s it. No other church tradition should tell you otherwise. You don’t need to be baptized to access heaven. You shouldn’t need to have a particular “gift” or spiritual talent to be more spiritual. What you need is a strong relationship with Jesus where you trust Him daily.
The Galatians, much like us, were being fed a line of BS. You read that right. You’re lucky I just gave you the initials and didn’t spell it out because that’s exactly what it is…BS. They were being told, “you aren’t complete as a Christian unless you follow our religion (Judaism) first.” The group that was spreading these lies were known as the Judaizers.
Let’s get real. The idea of having religious structure in place was pretty attractive to first century believers. The Jewish believers at the time had left all of the things that make religion comfortable. There were priests, religious procedures, cultural followers and a temple that you could meet in. Early Christians didn’t really have a place to worship other than homes, there were no priests and since it was a new movement, they didn’t have a lot of cultural followers, just new converts. If you were a Christian during this time you were in the minority.
So it is easy to see why someone might revert back to easier path of belief. Yet, Paul says this: “I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel;” (Galatians 1:6)
That word for “deserting” carries the connotation with it that someone is switching allegiances. In other words they were traitors (Stott, Glatians) in Paul’s eyes. Easy there Paul! Have a little compassion would ya? I mean, let’s be honest for a second, this following Jesus thing isn’t that easy. A lot of believers were persecuted and killed for their faith. Paul would know. He was one of the worst persecutors of the church before Jesus got a hold of his life. Paul was actively involved in the pursuit and killing of believers and was on his way to do just that when he had an encounter with Jesus that would completely change his life. Paul went from the hunter to the hunted in an instant! Maybe that’s why Paul was so hard-core about this. He was living out what he was asking the Galatian church to do. He not only knew what it meant to be a target, because of his faith, he was a high profile target! One of the Pharisees most highly trained and potentially highest revered agents had himself become a traitor to their cause.
He was now fully on board with following Jesus and had become highly pursued by those wanting this “Jesus thing” to stop spreading.
Not only did he tell them not to desert the cause, he told them “Don’t do it so quickly!” Its kind of funny when you read it that way. “Seriously people. I’m not saying don’t desert the cause, just don’t do it so stinkin’ quickly!!!” There is good evidence that points to the fact that not long after Paul had left them, they started jumping ship. Like rats on a sinking ship, they got outta there!
This passage reminds me of stories that came out of the Gulf War in Iraq. Some of the Iraqi troops were so ill prepared for battle that they were surrendering to camera crews! Can you imagine? Not one of your greatest moments as a warrior for the cause. “I give up!” “Uhhhh, we’re just filming the war. It’s a different kind of shooting, you know the kind where no one actually gets shot and we capture it on film.” “Close enough bro. WE SURRENDER!!!”
Paul was making a point. You were not really prepared to fight for the cause. The first chance you got, you ditched Jesus. I guess they weren’t really rooted in the life of Christ enough. They were slaves to religion and they hadn’t fully embraced the freedom that the love of Jesus affords us. To put it simply, their heart wasn’t in it.”