Wednesday, June 24, 2015

False fondness - Galatians 4:17-20

"They eagerly seek you, not commendably, but they wish to shut you out so that you will seek them. But it is good always to be eagerly sought in a commendable manner, and not only when I am present with you. My children, with whom I am again in labor until Christ is formed in you —  but I could wish to be present with you now and to change my tone, for I am perplexed about you. (Galatians 4:17-20)
The Greek word used here for "eagerly seek" literally means to be "zealously affected for." It indicates one who is zealous in their affections and desires for another. It could refer to a lover who has strong amorous feelings towards someone and who zealously desires them and wants them. Paul concurs that there is nothing wrong with someone having zealous fondness towards us, as long as their motives are pure, right, and good. However, in this case, the zealous fondness of the false brethren and the judaizers was extended so that the Galatians would have the same zealous fondness towards them. They sought the Galatians so that the Galatians might seek them. It was a fondness with selfish motives, not with the good of the other in mind.

There are many who will play on our emotions and seek to win us to themselves. They will flatter us and show us attention all in an attempt to secure our affection and loyalty for themselves. This is how we can identify such false brethren and false suitors. If everything they do points back to themselves or requires our loyalty to themselves, then we should run for their motives are not pure.

The man of God, however, does not (or should not) act such. Notice Paul's motives were not selfish but his desire was that Christ would be formed in them. His desire was their affection and loyalty towards Christ, not himself. He desired the best for the Galatians, not the best for himself. Paul understood that, in desiring the best for others, sometimes his zealousness for them would not always be returned in kind. Paul understood that, from time to time, he might have to tell them the truth and tell them things that might be hard for them to hear. In these times, their zealousness towards him would be tested. However, these things did not motivate Paul because his focus was on them, not himself.

Paul's zealousness for the Galatians committed him to the formation of Christ in them, no matter how long that took. The Greek term used here for "again" comes from a word that means to "vibrate" and indicates an oscillating repetition. The Galatians had lost something that had once been theirs, they had taken a few steps backward in the process. However, Paul was not afraid to go back with them and repeat the lessons they had learned; to re-form in them what they had once had yet lost to their false admirers.

Sometimes, being a friend requires us to take a risk. Paul would have rather written this letter with a warm-and-fuzzy feeling to express their mutual love and faith in our Lord. However, the situation required a different "tone" and Paul was not afraid to take the risk in their relationship to say the things that needed to be said. One can only do this when their chief concern is others rather than themselves.

David Robison

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