“Obviously, I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant.” Galatians 1:10
Paul is writing to the churches in the region of Galatia to confront the division that was happening between Jewish Christians and non-Jewish Christians. Christianity began as a movement among the Jewish people and quickly spread to other people groups. The Christians who did not grow up in Jewish homes didn’t follow the law or practice circumcision; however, there was a traditional group of Jewish Christians who believed that they should. This was the divide. The traditional group felt like the way they practiced Christianity was the right way and if you didn’t do it their way they would not even be seen eating dinner with you. They cared too much about what others in their group thought.
Paul is writing to remind them that the gospel does not require following a traditional set of rules. The whole purpose of the law was that the Israelites would stand apart from other nations and that others would know that they were God’s chosen people because of their actions. Jesus summarized the law by saying the purpose of it was to love God and love others - especially those who are not like you. (Mark 12:30-31) Those two actions would set them apart as God’s people.
Before God changed Paul’s name he was Saul from Tarsus. As Saul, he was successful and high ranking. He studied the Jewish law and later enforced it to the point of persecuting Christians. He was even present when Stephen, the first Christian martyr, was killed. Paul remembers what it meant to look impressive to those in his circle and how dangerous that can be to maintain; which is why he abandoned that way of life and wrote “Obviously, I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant.” Galatians 1:10
As “Christ’s servant” he had to love others like Christ did and walk in obedience. That doesn’t leave a lot of room for division. Division can happen in the church over tradition, like it did in Galatia, between friends over politics and even in families over parenting. Division can even happen in the way that we follow Jesus and walk in obedience. Sometimes when we step out of the norm that alone becomes offensive. The goal has to be looking like Jesus more than pleasing other people.
As people who step out of the norm and bring kids from hard places into our home it sets us apart. We parent big, loud behaviors that the neighbors can hear. Our parenting is questioned verbally and in glances even though we read all the books about attachment and go to training about trauma. We swap numbers of different therapists and share links to the newest sensory tools. We know all the acronyms: RAD, FASD, PTSD, IEP, etc. We’ve moved past the debates about whether or not to medicate and just want to know what will help. Obedience and living the gospel of laying your former life and tradition down to love others is messy and confusing to those who don’t live it. It can cause division, but keep living the gospel.
When we walk in obedience God will lead us to live out the gospel in different ways. Our personal living example of the gospel is to care for vulnerable children. There are parts that are messy and draining, but we must resist the urge to conform to the social safety of the traditional norm while also being careful not to judge others who don’t live out the gospel in the same way we do. There is room for a gospel that is expressed in different ways. The summary of the law, which is to love God and love people, provides space for us all to creatively and purposely walk in obedience and be set apart.
Ashley Wambach, President/Executive Director
Originally posted Sept. 21, 2020