Galatians 2:15–3:6, Philippians 1:20–26,
The church in Galatia was struggling. Someone was pouring bad ideas and thoughts into them, causing them to walk away from the faith that Paul had taught them. The funny thing is that many of them probably didn’t know that they were being drawn away. It is easy, step-by-step, to be drawn away. The Galatians were being influenced to follow the path of works righteousness. In other words, it was by their (righteous, performed in compliance with the law) actions that saved them. It was no longer Jesus Christ.
Often that is the trap of holiness. Somehow, people changed good suggestions, then turned them into rules, then made them an article of salvation. In other words, they had escaped the bondage of the world, then went right back to it.
How many people that heard this letter (the letters were usually read publically) and shook in anger? How DARE Paul speak to us in that way? How many others shook in disbelief, amazed and saddened that they had surrendered their freedom.
Last week, Rachel Held Evans died at the age of 37. She was a progressive Christian that challenged many evangelicals. She made many very angry, so angry one could say they cursed her. Others thought on her words, trusted her heart, and listened. That doesn’t mean she changed many minds. While that may have been her intent, it was the fact that she caused evangelicals to question and converse that made the biggest difference. Of course, there will always be those who become more rigid when challenged. There will also be those who become more grace filled when challenged, as they hear the heart and pain of others. Evans like many other progressives find their calling in challenging their perception of the status quo, and the church should be grateful.
Not that Evans is Paul, but that we are challenged to think. Our faith isn’t one of checkmarks and tasks (salvation by works), it is one of relationship and love. Paul was happy to be alive on Earth because he saw it as his duty to challenge and encourage the church to be the church. In his letter to the Philippians, Paul wants to remain (rather than go home to Jesus) because he is watching them grow in their faith.
1) Growth and challenge. Why is it that when we are challenged, we grow? How how you see in work, life, and faith?
2) The church often resists being challenged, yet hindsight of history shows us that is where growth occurs. Why do we fight being challenged, especially if we know we will likely grow as a result?
3) Progressive and Conservative Christianity both need to learn from each other. In so doing, they can show the world that opposites can work together for the common good. Thinking of your friends and family, how can you be one that learns from others and show that as the way to live?