Finishing Galatians – the Cross of Jesus

Yeah!  Today we get to finish Galatians.

Paul wrote in his own hand these last words (Galatians 6):

The focus of his argument is that people would rather force external rules rather than ‘be persecuted for the cross of Christ’.  Whereas, he himself has chosen the cross of Christ.

What is the cross of Christ?  Twice in Matthew, Jesus tells his followers that they must ‘take up their cross and follow him’.  (Matthew 10:38 and 16:24)

The Matthew 10:38 passage tells us that we must be willing to let go of emotional bonds.  Jesus speaks prophetically about the emotional dissidence that Christianity will cause in some households – mother against daughter, etc.  “Whoever finds his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

This passage seems to connote inaction.  When your closest friends and family ridicule you for your Christ decisions, it is easy to just be inactive – to ‘find your life’.  Jesus invites us to the life of the miraculous – with an eternal promise, but it requires a life of action and danger – those we love may not always understand.  Sometimes they may stand against us.  We are called to pick up our cross and focus on Jesus.

Then the 16:24 passage talks about our ideas on how things should be.  The disciples’ idea of a messiah was a political one.  They had a plan.  They knew what Jesus should do.  Then Jesus said he was going to die.  Peter took him aside and said “Dude!  No way!  This isn’t the way this is going to go down!  I’ve got it all figured out!”  Jesus rebuked him and then told all the disciples “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.”

The disciples had put Jesus in a box.  When Jesus started explaining that his plan was different, Peter didn’t think that was quite right.  What a tempting situation!  We live in a world of systems.  If you are going to do (X,Y, Z)… then this is how you get there.  We serve a God who doesn’t answer to those systems.  He transcends them. God puts people in captivity and jail for 12+ years to make them 2nd in command in Egypt.  He sends shepherd boys against giants.  He turns water into wine, feeds 5000 with 5 loaves and 2 fish….  If you want to live in the miraculous, you will have to pick up your cross and choose to live outside the box.  This isn’t a comfortable place to live.

Paul lived in a world that said:  If you are going to serve God, you get circumcised.  The Judaizers wanted non-Jewish Christians to follow the ‘system’.  Jesus came to set people free, not to burden them with rules.  Paul lived outside the box.  He knew the danger of changing one’s mindset to living inside the box.

If you live inside the system, you are ruled by the system.  If you let God rule you only, then you live outside the system, and are free.  Does this mean you don’t obey God’s laws?  No!  It just means that you answer to God instead of to the system.

Today we are encouraged to examine ourselves:

  • Do we have relationships that hinder us from seeking all that Jesus has for us?
  • Have we sought comfort in established rules of how things ‘should be’, or are we allowing God to really be in charge of our lives?
  • Are we living free, or are we in bondage?
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