Many young people in America view the modern church as judgmental, insensitive, and hypocritical. The popular perception of Christians is a finger-wagging crowd that believes discipleship involves following rules and castigating people for breaking them. Our text today tells us that this perception is nothing new. The beliefs of missionaries who upheld circumcision and Torah law as necessary for full covenant membership in the body of Christ are fracturing the churches in Galatia. Paul writes this letter to refute the claims of that group. He tells them and us that salvation comes not through our actions but through the redemptive work of Jesus Christ on the cross.
Many people take the message of freedom in Paul’s epistle to justify a laissez-faire attitude about sin and discipline. They believe that it is never the church’s role to pass judgment and that Christians may do whatever they want as long as their behavior does not harm anyone else. Our choices, they argue, are between God and ourselves because, after all, only God knows our heart.
Paul refutes that idea too. Christians, he says, are supposed to hold each other accountable, not with an attitude of judgment and insensitivity but with a spirit of gentleness. We cannot simply look the other way. Nor do we confront another with the in-your-face style so popular today. Rather, we assume a posture of mutual admonition and responsibility. We approach one another in a way that fulfills the law of Christ who lived among us so he could better understand our burdens and show us what real love looks like.
Merciful God, may we love our sisters and brothers in Christ to the extent that we are willing to restore them to you when they fall. And grant us the wisdom and compassion to do so in a spirit of gentleness. Amen.
I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.”
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