Text: Galatians 5:1-15
For the quiet wisdom of the cross
For those who are worried for salvation
For those are not worried for salvation
IN THIS PASSAGE, Paul admonishes the church in Galatia for their apparent abandonment of the Gospel he preached to them. The Galatians have heard from other preachers some new viewpoints that have caused them to “critically” examine Paul’s earlier message. We can understand what is going on by thinking of the Galatians as having a blooming group of questions. How does a Gentile become a Christian? Is the promise only to the children of Abraham? Is conversion to Judaism a necessary first step? Is it necessary to observe the Law of Moses, and how much? Exasperated, Paul finally throws up his (rhetorical) hands and declares “you were called to freedom!”
This is an example of a very human process we might call “Jesus and….” As the philosopher Soren Kierkegaard wrote: God came to the world, let himself be born, suffer and die; and this suffering God almost begs us to accept the help that is offered…[and many are offended]. Why? Because it is too high for us, because we cannot get it in our heads, because in the face of it we cannot acquire frank-heartedness [i.e. get to the “real business” of what we need to do]…
What do I mean by “Jesus and…”? Classically, Lutherans would have said that it is whatever we fill in the blank with after that word “and,” with the real business necessary for salvation. Just as the Galatians might have said “Jesus and circumcision,” so Christians have been tempted to say “Jesus and your acceptance,” or “Jesus and your best effort”.
In our own day, we fill in the phrase with other things: our intellectual theories, our political goals, our pet projects, and so forth. What we insert after “and” are our real loyalties, and we bring Jesus along simply to sanctify what we already want to do. We fill the blank after “and,” and wonder why there is so much biting and devouring.
But the cross brings to an end all theories, all goals, all projects—all loyalties. In the end, death will conduct its “real business” and bring down to dust all our frankness and reveal the depth of our bondage. But God is not daunted! Kierkegaard again: “wonder of wonders, we, who would be puffed-up proud to have spoken once with the King on the street, have the eye and ear of God, can talk to God at any moment, can be sure God will hear us…” God come to us, all for freedom! So stand fast, and do not submit to any yoke of bondage.
May your day be grace-filled ~ Pr. Dave Brooks