13 October 2012Galatians 6:11-18
"May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers and sisters. Amen."
"OK - I think that's it, Paul." said Secundus*. "You're quite sure you don't want me to change anything?"
"Why would I want you to change anything?" said Paul, "I mean every word of it!"
"Well, some of it is a bit…. strong", suggested Secundus.
"Not half as strong as they'll get when I see them next", said Paul.
"So much for the 'fruit of the Spirit'," murmured Secundus.
"I heard that," growled Paul, "I may be nearly blind but I'm not deaf, you know."
"Alright, well, just sign it and then I'll put in the usual greetings and get it in the post," sighed Secundus.
Paul took the letter and signed it, and passed it back to his scribe.
"Now, just a 'ps'."
"Oh no," thought Secundus, "Why can't he say, 'Love and best wishes, Paul', and leave it at that?"
"Now then," said Paul, "write this: 'Those who are trying to get you circumcised are only trying to show off about how Jewish they are, and to avoid the kind of hassle I've had to put up with for the sake of the true gospel. It's not as if they're good Jews anyway - they don't keep the whole law and they only want to impress their friends in Jerusalem."
"Here he goes again!" but Secundus kept this thought to himself.
"'I, however," continued Paul, "am totally convinced that the death of Jesus has changed everything, including me, and I don't care anymore what anybody else thinks of me.'"
("That's true", thought Secundus.)
"'The law of Moses is irrelevant now - or at least the bits about circumcision; what matters is new life in Christ, led by the Spirit. Blessed are you if you agree with me, for you are the true people of God.'"
Paul paused, and Secundus thought he had finished. He hadn't. "'I don't want to hear any more about this - don't you realise how much I've suffered so that you can be free just to follow Jesus? I've got the scars to prove it!'"
("That's true too," thought Secundus, "He's been through a lot for their sake. No wonder he's so angry.")
And then a softer tone came into Paul's voice. "Just put, 'Love and best wishes' and get it in the post, would you?"
(* We don't actually know the name of Paul's scribe for this letter, but we do know that Tertius wrote the letter to Rome - Romans 16:22.)
- How would you react if you received a letter like this one the Galatians received?
- The central issue of Paul's letter to the Galatians - whether or not gentile Christ-followers should be circumcised - may no longer be relevant to the Church. What do you think Paul might get angry about if he was writing today?
- The letter to the Galatiansis very obviously a personal one written by Paul (with some help from his scribe!). So in what sense is it appropriate to say "This is the word of the Lord" when we read it in church?