I was all ready to slog may way through some dense Pauline theology, but pleasantly surprised to read a portion of Paul’s more gentle letters.
“My friends, if anyone is detected in a transgression, you who have received the Spirit should restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness. Take care that you yourselves are not tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. For if those who are nothing think they are something, they deceive themselves. All must test their own work; then that work, rather than their neighbor’s work, will become a cause for pride. For all must carry their own loads. Those who are taught the word must share in all good things with their teacher.” (Galatians 6:1-6)
These verses actually are not part of the more strictly exclusive port of the RCL. But that are noted so as to form a context of what the more focused passage is.
“Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow. If you sow to your own flesh, you will reap corruption from the flesh; but if you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life from the Spirit. So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up. So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith.” (Verses 7-10)
In comparison to other things that Paul has written, these gentle reminders go down easily. And are easy to do and maintain. And they are general enough for them to be applicable both then and now. In fact I, myself, have made such admonitions. And if this gentler side of Paul was not enough . . .
“See what large letters I make when I am writing in my own hand! It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh that try to compel you to be circumcised—only that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. Even the circumcised do not themselves obey the law, but they want you to be circumcised so that they may boast about your flesh. May I never boast of anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is anything; but a new creation is everything! As for those who will follow this rule—peace be upon them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God.” (Verses 11-16)
There was pressure placed on the Gentile converts to be circumcised so as to follow Jewish rules and laws. It was not necessary for the Christian faith, but an outward requirement by some who were teaching the gospel. Paul seeks to assure his Galatian readers that this was not a requirement that he expected them to fulfill, and he did not boast how many converts he made, forcing them into both Christian and Jewish conversion. And Paul states that this comes directly from him, and they can tell because it is written in “large letters” instead of the tinier script that those he dictated to might use. Reading this “Paul” I can readily believe that only wanted the best for those he knew, even if he might come on strong and harsh at times.
May you, beloved reader, confirm to those rules and laws that uphold you and bring you joy in the Christian life. Selah!