Thursday, May 26, 2016
It’s not what you think.
In the first chapter of Paul’s letter to the Galatian churches, Paul launches into an angry attack against “some who are confusing you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ.”
While the word has taken on a certain connotation in the past century or so, “pervert” literally means to “turn away.” For much of history, this word had the sense of turning away from or inverting a religious truth. In this case, Paul argues that the perverts are turning away from the gospel and causing others to do the same.
While Paul has proclaimed that the gospel sets us free from the law, his opponents argue that certain laws still apply. Their perversion is turning, twisting, redirecting the gospel so that it still fits with a certain status quo (in this case the practice of circumcision). And rather than boldly living in to the brand new reality made possible through the gospel of Christ, the people have been readily giving in to the pressure to conform.
This problem is not a historical artifact. It is a real and on-going struggle for Christians. The temptation to pervert the gospel is all around us.
Too many times, we ourselves are the perverts.
The gospel says: God’s love is a gift freely given to you.
And we say: But there must be something you have to do or must say to get this love.
The gospel says: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
And we say: Still, we have to draw the line somewhere. There have to be some sins worse than others, some sinners not worthy of God’s love.
The gospel says: There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female, for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.
And we say: Maybe in the life to come, but not here, not now. People need to know their place.
The gospel says: It is no longer I who lives, but Christ who lives in me.
And we say: As long as Christ doesn’t change me too much, or ask me to do anything that makes me feel uncomfortable.
Paul’s words still speak to Christians of today.
And today, as much as ever, we may need the vitriol and venom in his letter to catch our attention—turning us away from all those perversions that distract—and back to the gospel of Christ.