Monday, June 12, 2006

Galatians 4:12-20

As we have seen, Paul wrote to Christians in Galatia to counter erroneous ideas about salvation in Jesus. Certain Jewish Christians had taught that Gentile Christians, in addition to faith in Jesus, had to fulfill Old Testament ceremonial law and ritual to be saved. Paul knew this teaching did not come from God. It did not represent true good news.

Paul expressed himself with vigor. (Compare, for example, chapter 3, verse 1.) We see a similar vigor in today’s passage. He pleaded with the Galatian Christians to imitate him in giving themselves to him as he had given himself to them. He employed vivid imagery to depict their former devotion to him and his to them. (Compare references to tearing out eyes and giving birth.) The purpose in what Paul wrote was to achieve their reconciliation with him, rejection of erroneous beliefs, and return to the true gospel of salvation in Jesus.

This could easily be seen as Paul’s simply trying to make them over in his own image. Probably we are all disposed to this to some extent. (This is certainly a strong tendency in me.) Too much do we want to make others over in the mold of ourselves, especially those close to us when their perspectives, tastes, and habits differ from ours in significant ways.

Yet what makes this passage something other than Paul’s merely trying to mold people into his own image is the focus of what he wants for his beloved brothers and sisters in Christ. We find this focus in his evocative phrase: “until Christ is formed in you.” Paul was clear. Jesus Christ, not Paul or anyone or anything else, is the model of true and good life, the measure of being a true and good person.

Christ formed in us. It is a notion worthy of much reflection and prayer. The idea, at least in part, is that the inner core of our selves and the visible shape of our lives would conceive and grow in true and intrinsic resemblance to the person and life of Jesus Christ. Then in the mirror in the morning, we would see Jesus. And when we turn to face the day and the world, as we must, others would also see Jesus.

May this be our desire for ourselves and for those we love: that Christ, not someone or something else, be formed in us, truly, deeply, and visibly.

Gregory Strong

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