When Love Turns to Animosity
Imagine, we’re on a church leadership team with two choices. We can bring a handsome young evangelist with a powerful speaking voice and a beautiful wife, a team of gifted singers, professional athletes, and some powerful businessmen and women, or we can bring to town a single, physically unattractive bachelor who is suffering from a debilitating eye problem and an older Jew from Jerusalem?
As American evangelicals we’ve been exposed a lot to the first type of evangelistic team and the Spirit has greatly used this culturally accepted model, but in the first century, when the Holy Spirit wanted to bring the Gospel into what is now modern day Turkey for the first time, he sent the second type of team.
Paul had something terribly wrong with his eyes and he wasn’t that great an orator, but he and Barnabas walked into a city that worshiped Zeus and Hermes (Acts 14:11ff), the Holy Spirit moved, and a new group of Jesus believers began to love each other like brothers and sisters. Paul takes the Galatians back to this precious time of first love and uses it to ask them why they’re now being tempted to listen to teachers who were turning Paul into their enemy.
“I’m pleading with you brothers and sisters, be as I am because I have become as you. Remember when I first came and proclaimed the Gospel to you. You didn’t wrong me in any way. Now you remember that it was because of physical weakness that I first proclaimed the Gospel to you. And though you could have been tempted to reject me because of my physical condition, you didn’t reject or despise me. Just the opposite—you received me like an angel of God, as Christ Jesus, himself. So, where is your blessing now? For I testify that, if it were possible, you would have gouged out your very own eyes and given them to me. So, have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth?” Galatians 4:12-16
The Jewish prophet, Isaiah, in chapter 53 tells the story of a physically weak and unremarkable servant who his own people rejected because, like Job’s friends, they think he’s suffering under divine punishment for his own sin. But then the writer realizes that this suffering servant was actually allowing himself to be God’s payment for our sin, and he goes on to present how this crushed one becomes the resurrected one with a host of children, those who believe in his power to give forgiveness and life.
The Apostle Paul, like Jesus, wasn’t physically robust and attractive when he presented the Gospel for the first time to the Galatians, but a miracle happened. They trusted in Jesus, fell in love with Paul, and became family. Instead of rejecting him, they were willing to sacrifice their own eyes for him. But now this pure Christ-like love for one another is being threatened. False teachers are lying to them, and they’re being tempted to start to view Paul as an enemy. This is crazy foolishness and Paul challenges them to remember and remain true to the Gospel of grace, not a religion of human work, merit, and pride.
LORD, it’s tough to have those who once were your much loved brothers and sisters turn against you, especially when they turn away because you told them the truth. But it helps to hear Paul share that he faced this same fickleness in church folks, and he didn’t allow their rejection to get him to shut his mouth about Jesus, the Gospel, and biblical truth.
For more from Dave Wyrtzen please visit TruthEncounter.com!