Scripture:I, Paul, am astonished that you, Galatians, are so quickly deserting the one who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel – not that there is another gospel, but there are some who are confusing you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. As we have said before, so now I repeat, if anyone proclaims to you a gospel contrary to what you received, let that one be accursed! (Galatians 1:6-9)
Reflection:Paul has a problem in the churches in Galatia. There is a group advocating that Gentile Christians observe the Torah, which Paul insists has been surpassed by the death and resurrection of Christ. For him the works of the Torah, primarily circumcision, are no longer necessary; a person cannot earn salvation by doing them. Salvation is a free gift (grace) from God. The model of how to accept and then live according to God’s grace is Jesus. In him, the new Adam, God started over. Both Jews and Gentiles have been offered grace by God, who waits for them to respond. And when they do, he declares them justified. Those Galatians who want to observe the Law are perverting the good news that Paul has delivered to them. He fears that they will fall back into the old pattern of earning salvation by works instead of continuing forward in the new pattern of justification by grace through faith in Christ.
Paul’s good news is simple: Jesus died, and was raised. God saved him not because of his adherence to all 613 laws of the Torah, but because of his faithfulness to his Father’s grace. Works, as dictated by the Law, especially circumcision, are not the means to salvation. If they exist – and in Paul it is not necessary that they do – they are present as a result of accepting the grace of God. Works flow out of a lifestyle of cooperation with God, just like Jesus’s work of redemption flowed out of his relationship with God. What God did for Christ, God promises to do for Christ’s followers.
A spirituality of mission must remain faithful to the basic good news. We make salvation difficult by proposing a new gospel created from fragments of those found in the New Testament and declaring it to be doctrine. But evangelization is best presented in its plurality. A spirituality of mission must have enough room for Paul, Mark, Matthew, Luke, John, James, Peter, and more. In other words, the New Testament preserves the diversity of Christianity. Thus, instead of attempting to make another person believe the way the missioner does, the evangelizer should advocate for Christianities as represented by the various biblical books. What unites all of them is the basic Pauline gospel: Jesus died, and was raised.
Journal/Meditation: What gospel do you proclaim? How does your favorite New Testament book bias your faith?
Prayer:Because of his faithfulness to your grace, Almighty God, you raised Jesus form the dead and validated him as your Son. Keep me faithful to proclaiming his death and resurrection that I may come to share eternal life in the kingdom where he lives with you and the Holy Spirit, forever and ever. Amen.