Tuesday, June 23, 2015

From friend to enemy - Galatians 4:12-16

"You have done me no wrong; but you know that it was because of a bodily illness that I preached the gospel to you the first time; and that which was a trial to you in my bodily condition you did not despise or loathe, but you received me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus Himself. Where then is that sense of blessing you had? For I bear you witness that, if possible, you would have plucked out your eyes and given them to me. So have I become your enemy by telling you the truth?" (Galatians 4:12-16)
Paul once wrote Timothy, "continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them." (2 Timothy 3:14) This was not Paul's first letter to the Galatians. He obviously had written previously to them, warning them to steer clear of the Judaizers and their message, warning them of those false brethren who desired to return them once again to bondage; bondage to the law. However, those who thought to deceive them had convinced them that it was because Paul had been offended by them that he wrote so sternly to them. They had convinced them that Paul's stern warnings were the result of his anger and offense he had toward them, not the result of any true and real concern for them.

Paul writes back to assure them that they had done nothing to hurt or offend him; he was not offended nor writing out of a sense of hurt in their relationship. In fact, Paul reminds them of his first contact with them. He was sick and suffering in his body yet, in his weekend state, he nonetheless preached the Gospel to them which they readily accepted. So much was the love of Paul for them that he would share the truth with them even when he was hurting and in need himself. So much was their love for him that, if they could, they would have given their own eyes for him to relieve him of his pain. Their relationship began with such love and mutual care, how could Paul feel anything but love for them now? Paul is saying, "remember, its me! Nothing has changed. I love you and care for you just as I did in the beginning."

There will always be times in our lives when we need to hear stern things from our friends. The process of maturing often means hearing things we don't want to hear; hearing we are wrong, hearing we need to change, and hearing we need to grow up. At times like that, we need to take stock of who it is who is telling us these things. In the pain of their words we can easily take offense. Worse yet, we can latch onto other people's negative opinions of them to confirm the offense we have taken. However, we need to remember who they are to us; who they have been to us throughout our lives. For those who have loved and cared for us, we need to receive their words in the same manor; as loving and caring. We must not allow our pain to damage or weaken relationships that have been forged in love and care.

How do we gauge our response in this matter? Paul asks, "Where is the sense of blessing you had?" When we have lost our sense of blessing, maybe we have also lost our true perspective of our friends. When we have lost our sense of blessing, maybe we have also lost sight of the love and care of others. We need to lay aside the feeling that others are out to get us or that they are angry and offended at us, and we need to see afresh their love and care for us in their words and actions, even when those words and actions may sting just a bit.

David Robison

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