Am I now seeking human approval, or God’s approval? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still pleasing people, I would not be a servant of Christ. For I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel that was proclaimed by me is not of human origin; for I did not receive it from a human source, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.
An underlying theme of Paul’s letter to the Galatians is that they have gone too far. Having listened to Paul these former Gentile Galatians have converted to Christianity but have been heavily influenced by a group of Jewish Christian evangelists. They followed Paul and as far as he was concerned, they undermined his teaching resulting in much confusion.
This must have been frustrating for Paul. He has been to Galatia where for many his message has been received and accepted. Paul is clear in what this is and as the Jesus movement gained momentum he moved on. However, for others the message is not so clear as they try and weave together and negotiate a union of the old and the new. This seems like good middle ground. It’s safe and should keep everyone happy – but according to Paul they have missed the point.
Finding the safe middle ground position is often where we focus our attention through compromise and balance. This might not always be an easy option of course but even if it sparks argument and debate, at least it should keep most people happy when a conclusion is reached. In doing so, is there a danger that by making this our prime objective we too miss the point?
Paul writes to the Christians in Galatia claiming we are not called to simply keep people happy and navigate the path of least resistance to achieve this. We must therefore always be listening for the whispers and discerning God’s will before stepping out with courage and faith. As Paul emphasises, the message he brings is not of human origin so this should make us think, inspire us to act and take us to new places if we truly wish to be servants of Christ.
God of grace, In this moment I seek stillness. In this moment let me reach beyond my past experiences. Give me a sharpness of vision as I hope for a glimpse of your presence. Give me a clarity of hearing as I listen for your whispers. Show me how to be a servant of Christ. Show me what to say and what to do. In moments of stillness and calm and in moments of noise and chaos; grant me the courage to ensure your will is done. Amen
The Rev’d David Scott is minister of Duke Street and Saughtonhall URCs in Edinburgh.