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Friday, February 26, 2016

Have I Then Become Your Enemy?

Most of Paul's epistle to the churches of Galatia is focused on a single idea -- justified by faith apart from works. Someone came to those Christians and told them they had to do works to get saved. Paul called it "deserting Him who called in in the grace of Christ" and "a different gospel" (Gal 1:6). Over in chapter 4 he tells them about how God had sent His Son to set them free for adoption as sons of God (Gal 4:4-6) and then wonders, "But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more?" (Gal 4:9)

Paul was grieving over the Galatian Christians and was not being gentle in his calling them to repentance. He included little delicacies like, "But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed" (Gal 1:8) and repeated it for emphasis (Gal 1:9). He used warm and gentle phrases like, "O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you?" (Gal 3:1) No, not gentle at all.

Then Paul says this: "Have I then become your enemy by telling you the truth?" (Gal 4:16)

I know the feeling. When does telling them the truth make you their enemy? Well, it would likely be so if there was no love in it, but clearly Paul's words were intended in love. Or it would likely be so if there was love but not truth, but Paul was clearly speaking truth. And, in fact, there is no indication that telling them the truth in love made him their enemy. He was just reminding them that telling the truth in love should not make them enemies.

I'm amazed, then, at how unwilling we are to do the same. I'm sad that so many think that speaking the truth makes you their enemy, even if it is done in love. Paul was warning the Galatian Christians about extremely serious matters. "You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace." (Gal 5:4) No matter how you read that, it is serious. Paul was taking Christ seriously and his love for the Galatians seriously. That shouldn't make him their enemy.

Which is it for most of us? Are we afraid of making friends into enemies by speaking the truth in love? When someone about whom we care is indulging in gross sin, do we keep quiet because we don't want to be viewed as an enemy? Or do we not want to make a big deal of a little thing? Because, of course, violating the commands of the Lord of the Universe is no big deal, right? As for me, I'm ashamed at times. I prefer to keep peace between me and people I care about rather than warn them as Paul did of the consequences of their choices. In order to avoid conflict with them, I minimize God's commands and the consequences of violating them. In the end, it is neither truth nor love.

Will it make some view you as an enemy to speak the truth in love? It will, no doubt. So you have to ask yourself, at what cost peace? Because offending the God of All in favor of human conciliation is a pretty high cost and speaks poorly of our priorities, doesn't it?

1 comment:

Eternity Matters said...

Great message!

Love that verse. Just committed it to memory last week (check out if you haven't already -- best memory device I've seen).

And just added that verse to my "read the Bible in context" presentation (part of the "don't hate me too much when I explain how you've misunderstood your life verse" theme).