Paul is getting personal here with the Galatians. He knows they are struggling in their faith walk because of the agitators trying to confuse them and cause them to feel unworthy. Have you ever felt like you don’t belong? What do you do? Perhaps you’ve tried to do something to get people to like you, accept you, allow you into the “in-crowd.” Paul is not only acting as their pastor but as their friend.
When we get off track, we often need someone to pull us back up. Paul is doing that by taking them back to the beginning. “Surely you remember that I was sick when I first brought you the Good News.” Paul doesn’t need to go into the details of his illness, because that statement alone will take the believers in Galatia back to their first encounter with Paul. We may be curious as to what was afflicting him, but it doesn’t matter. Paul reconnects with them by having them remember.
In marriage counseling, couples are often reminded to go back to what they felt about their spouse when they were dating. These thoughts conjure up a whole set of new (or rekindled) feelings. Whatever has happened in their life to dampen their relationship can start to be healed by going back to the beginning. Remember the spark. What did that feel like? Paul is doing this for the Galatians. By recalling this memory, they see themselves in a different time and place. They were helpful to him then. They were open. They were hungry to hear the gospel. Paul comes right out and asks, “Where is that joyful and grateful spirit you felt then?”
Paul is confronting them in love. He wants the best for them. He doesn’t want them to fall prey to the false teachers who do not have their best interests in mind. We can all relate to how many messages about faith and spirituality are floating around the world today. Many attempts are made to divert our attention from the truth. For the Galatians, their blinding issue was the need to be circumcised to fit in.
Paul sensed that the Galatians had lost the joy of their salvation because of legalism. God’s love and acceptance is not legalistic. Paul feared they felt guilty rather than loved and were more concerned about their behaviors rather than their relationship with God and each other. When we are more focused how we fall short rather than on what Christ has done for us, we can start to lose our joy. Are you living by faith in Christ or by trying to live up to the expectations of others? Don’t rush past this question.
Paul was at odds knowing how best to help them. If he were there with them personally that would be one thing. There were no “face-time” or zoom meetings to at least see them face to face. Paul sent this letter. He let them know how he felt. “Oh, my dear children! I feel as if I’m going through labor pains for you again, and they will continue until Christ is fully developed in your lives.”
What does it look like to have Christ fully developed in our lives? For me, I’m a work in progress. I know Christ is working inside me to help me grow. For my part, I am being more intentional in spending time in God’s Word, listening for his voice, all in hopes building a stronger relationship with him. I don’t know that any of us are ever “fully” developed.
As a spiritual guide, Paul wants to make sure that those “new” to the faith are being nurtured and cared for. He wants to make sure they are listening to the right counsel and building a stronger connection to the risen Christ. He is sharing his heart with the people in Galatia in this passage. I can truly sense his passion for their well-being, can’t you? Accept Paul’s concern as if it is for you and feel his compassion today for you on your own faith journey.
Let’s pray … Lord, I thank you that I can come to you and give you thanks for how you are working in my life. I yearn to grow closer to you. Shield me from the messages of the world that tend to sway me off course. Help me not to beat myself up for my failures but to embrace them as learning opportunities. Help me find you working in all things. Reveal yourself to me today. In Jesus’ name. Amen.