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Thursday, January 26, 2017

Today's Scripture Reading | Galatians 3:1–14

You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly exhibited as crucified! The only thing I want to learn from you is this: Did you receive the Spirit by doing the works of the law or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? Having started with the Spirit, are you now ending with the flesh? Did you experience so much for nothing?—if it really was for nothing. Well then, does God supply you with the Spirit and work miracles among you by your doing the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard?

Just as Abraham “believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,” so, you see, those who believe are the descendants of Abraham. And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, declared the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “All the Gentiles shall be blessed in you.” For this reason, those who believe are blessed with Abraham who believed. For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not observe and obey all the things written in the book of the law.” Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law; for “The one who is righteous will live by faith.” But the law does not rest on faith; on the contrary, “Whoever does the works of the law will live by them.” Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”—in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. (NRSV)

From what we know about Paul and the Galatian church, Paul was incredibly aggravated with his congregation. Outside missionaries had come into that new faith community, and they were preaching a different interpretation of the gospel than what Paul preached. And the people were beginning to listen.

For example, the outside missionaries were preaching that Gentiles had to be circumcised to be a part of God’s covenant. And yet Paul had been trying to convince the Galatians that they were included as a part of God’s people simply because they had received the Spirit. And here is where we get to gift.

For Paul, one of the most critical parts of the gospel was the truth that being a part of God’s people, being made one in Christ, was not a humanly manufactured act. Even though we sometimes forget, being a part of the church is not something we choose to do. Rather, our inclusion into God’s covenant is because of God’s choice for us. It is a gift. God did not ask for our permission or for our approval. In fact, as my friend Dan Lewis says, “in the very moment we attempt to manage our togetherness, we undercut the gospel itself. To be ‘in Christ’ is by definition to give up the power of boundary-making to the One who persists in boundary-breaking. You can’t put a fence around something you didn’t build. You can’t be a bouncer at a club you didn’t start.” And this is why those outsiders irritated Paul so much. He saw them trying hard to build up the boundaries rather than breaking them down. And for Paul, radical inclusion was central to who he knew Jesus Christ to be, as evidenced throughout his own life. Being a part of Christ’s living body called the church was nothing less than pure gift.

God, I thank you for loving me and including me not because I am so good or lovable but because you are. Thank you for the gift of being a part of your church. May I enter into this day determined to live out your boundary-breaking call, rather than enable our boundary-making culture. Amen.

Written by Shannon J. Kershner, Pastor

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