Galatians 2: 19-21 (New International Version)
19 “For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”[a]
Church life and barriers to that life
Paul rebukes Peter and the Galatians in this highly compressed argument about the old life lived under the law and the new life lived by faith in Christ. Life is now about love and self-giving and not about circumcision or any other total adherence to the Jewish law including eating separate foods or at a separate table. He tells them they are Jewish Christians by nature, but are not to require gentile sinners (as they called them) to come under that law and have circumcision in order to live like Jesus. Paul vehemently believed there should be no barriers or walls that separated the people who believed in Jesus Christ and His grace. He saw them using the old Law and cultural behaviors as a way of keeping people separate and perhaps inferior.
Paul says that we now know we are not brought into right relationship with God by works of the Law but by faith in Christ. Many centuries later, Martin Luther, fought for this same belief in the Christian Reformation with the idea of salvation by faith alone and not by good works. For us, Paul directs us to set aside old barriers and break down meaningless walls that hurt people. In our world, these walls may be more invisible or culturally imbedded in our behaviors but they still create separateness and aloneness. His example is circumcision but we know there are many economic and social and belief differences that create the same kind of hurtful and discriminatory walls and barriers.
Paul insists that we are called to be one community that shares a common life and eats at a common table and cares for each other in spite of and beyond and around any barriers of socioeconomic, political, cultural or other factors. Paul tells us that baptism signifies that we are united in Christ and we are one and not separated like male and female or Jew and gentile. It might be easy to judge those of old in Galatians but when we stop and think, we become aware, through work of the Holy Spirit, of the very barriers that exist in our own churches.
Some questions to meditate on would be:
- What barriers or walls exist in our church today?
- How do we apply Paul’s words to our own community of believers?
- What is the nature of our lives under the new transforming faith in Christ?
Prayer: Dear holy, loving and just God, our Creator, our Savior and our Guide, help us to shine the light of Christ on our own hearts. Guide us as a church to remove barriers rather than build walls. May Christ’s love and mercy fill our hearts and minds and transform the nature of our congregation. Amen.
Rev. Sharon Mac Vean