Talk about tension, man.
For a girl who would prefer to end every discussion with a group hug and the phrase, “Hey, can’t we all just get along?,” this first week in Galatians is a good reminder that sometimes solutions to life’s heated disagreements aren’t quite that easy. Bummer.
God himself knows that I’ve avoided confrontation plenty of times in my life. Voices raise and tension builds and I get all fidgety and sweaty and start looking for a way out. You all can carry on while I go bake you a pie as an offering to help restore the peace. But this disagreement that Paul invites us into? It’s not one of those that we can just turn our heads and look away.
There’s only one gospel…
“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.”
I just pulled my teenage boys aside this week to talk about potentially the greatest threat that they’ll fight against in their lifetime:
The world’s denial of absolute truth.
Allowing room for all of mankind to find their own way, on a path that seems appropriate to them. A “you do what’s right for you, and I’ll do what’s right for me” mentality, so as to not offend anyone – on any topic – ever.
Pursuing “what’s right in our own eyes” might actually work on things like hair color, career choices, and a tired mom’s amended version of Monopoly rules, but it certainly doesn’t work when it comes to the gospel.
Paul reminds us that there is but one gospel: the gospel of grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone (Ephesians 2:8-9). Adding or subtracting to this absolute truth is to deny God of the glory he is due and is pure destruction to anyone who thinks that salvation is dependent on man’s striving (Galatians 1:9).
Christian, you can’t walk away from this one, no matter how uncomfortable things get. It’s not Jesus plus something else. It’s Christ alone…
There’s one ultimate authority…
“Am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still pleasing men, I should not be a servant of Christ.”
These big boys of mine still let me tuck them in at night, and I’ve already promised myself that I’ll hang on to that little ritual for as long as they’ll let me. My best teenage tip? Offer to scratch their backs while tucking them in, and it’s almost guaranteed they’ll tell you all kinds of stuff that you’ve been dying to know.
It happened one day at the middle school lunch table – the moment during a God-discussion when my boy knew he should have spoken up for what he believed in… but he was scared and he didn’t. As he shared with me what went down that day, I recognized the familiar tension that I too had experienced many times before: on one hand, there would be relief and a strong sense of satisfaction for being obedient in standing up for his faith. Oh, how our hearts want to speak your name, Jesus! On the other hand, he couldn’t ignore that rotten feeling that comes when you realize you just might alienate yourself from the entire “lunch table” at the close of one bold, uncompromising sentence. Ugh.
I’m a recovering people pleaser.
There, I said it. Anyone else care to raise their hands high?
We want to connect and engage and to find commonality among our peers. And when applied with intentionality and constraints, that’s actually not necessarily a bad thing.
But when pleasing man trumps pleasing God, we have a serious problem on our hands.
If you search in Scripture, Paul had times when he actually pursued pleasing people. In Corinthians he says, “Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved” (1 Corinthians 10:32–33).
But in today’s passage, he clearly runs from pleasing men in order to be a servant of Christ (Galatians 1:10). So which is it? Different circumstances call for different ways of doing things. But one thing is clear: In both cases, Paul lived in a way that pleased God by elevating the advance of the gospel.
Ultimately, you and I live for an audience of One. God is our ultimate authority, and the gospel is our primary message.
Will we speak the one and only gospel in an effort to magnify the One who died to save our souls? Or will we hold back absolute truth, cowering under the pressure of pleasing man over pleasing God?
There’s a lost world in need of the gospel – people that we will interact with even this very day. Jesus, give us opportunity and your strength to boldly proclaim that YOU are the only way…
At His feet,
*Let’s talk: What holds YOU back from declaring ONE gospel to those at your “lunch table?” Do you get hung up on people pleasing to the detriment of the gospel?