Galatiansby Khan Hui Neon
Paul's concern for the Galatians never wanes, even in trying times. We can learn much from his example.
Paul's stinging rebuke of the Galatians quickly softens to a personal appeal. They are, after all, his flock. Calling them his brothers and sisters, he begs them, saying: ″Be just like me, for I became as you yourselves once were″ (see Galatians 4:12). The Galatians are Gentiles who are not subject to the Jewish law (or Jewish legal system) while Paul is a Jew formerly under it. But after his conversion, he dropped the system as a means of salvation and became like them who never had it. ″Be like me,″ Paul says. ″Don't adopt what I have given up.″
Paul laboured to bring them the gospel so they could be free from bondage to the elementary principles of the world, pagan or Jewish. But he could only do so as someone who was himself totally free in Christ.3 For this to happen, he had to give up everything (in that nothing has a claim on him except Christ). Having made such personal sacrifice to bring them freedom, it is no wonder he feels he has run in vain if they submit to the law (v. 11).
Paul recalls how well he was treated when they first met: ″You did me no wrong,″ he writes (v. 12). They did not despise him even though he was ill then. Instead, they regarded him as an angel, a messenger from God, and even likened him to Christ Jesus (vv. 13-14). They counted themselves blessed to have heard the gospel from him and even thought nothing of plucking out their eyes for him. To them, it would not have been too great a price to pay in return (v. 15).
So why now the sudden change in attitude, Paul wonders. Is it because he spoke the truth, thus turning himself into their enemy (v. 16)? But isn't being honest with each other what real friends do? Turning to the Judaizers, he asks: Can they be counted as true friends? Unlike him, they were trying to win the Galatians over for a bad reason: they wanted the Galatians' undivided attention by cutting out other teachers and their teachings-particularly Paul-from them (v. 17).
Of course, Paul notes, it is fine to win someone over as long as the motivation is right. But this must be true at all times, not just when someone is watching (like when he is present) (v. 18), because the purity, nobility, and moral excellence of our motivation must never be compromised.
This has always been Paul's approach towards the Galatians. When they first met, his sole desire was to share the gospel with them. And now he again labours for their own good-until Christ is formed in them (v. 19)-even if it means he has to suffer like a mother at childbirth. Unlike the Judaizers, his ″motherly″ heart for them has never changed.
How do we express our concern for others? Look to Paul's fine example. How do we express our concern for others? Like Paul, we should speak the truth to them, but always in love. We should show that our heart is for them and for their good, even if we need to confront them with difficult things.
Concern for others is never easy. Can you think of some steps to help you follow Paul's example?
Confronting people when they have strayed from the truth can be difficult. Instead of avoiding it, what can we learn from Paul's example on counsel and guidance?