Paul Wasn't Always Nice 😳
“Brothers and sisters, if I am still preaching circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case, the offense of the cross has been abolished. As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves!” Galatians 5:11-12 Happy Saturday friends! In our culture we idolize politeness and political correctness but did you know that leaders in the Bible were often not nice by today’s standards? I know it sounds funny to even say it. Yet it’s true! The prophet Isaiah walked around naked for a year, Elijah openly mocked the religious beliefs of others, and even Jesus got into such a verbal war of words with Israel’s leaders during the week leading up to his crucifixion that they killed him. In that regard, Paul did not disappoint. In my video series “The Disruptive Gospel” I showcase many of the disruptive situations that followed Paul as a result of his commitment to the Gospel. Two of which are his confrontation of Peter and his parting ways with Barnabas over John Mark. And then there’s his words to the Judaisers of Galatia. In one instance, he said that his opponents should cut off their manhood! O-M-G! Honestly, I can’t believe this made it into the Bible. In its context, his statement to church people (yes, that’s who he was talking to) was a sign of his frustration that nonbelieving Jews were encouraging non-Jewish Christians to put their faith in Jesus and then be circumcised. What’s the big deal, right? Well, when you consider their history of unbelief, the Jews didn’t have a good track record for flexibly following God. This small “backsliding” to the Old Covenant Law was a perfect example of where their allegiance truly rested. It wasn’t on Jesus at all. Partial allegiance is a commitment of convenience and Paul saw right through it. He was devastated at the thought that God’s powerful kingdom growth in that time would be quenched by the lukewarm faith of a few troublemakers. So he went off. He said, “Instead of just removing the tip, why don’t you cut the whole thing off!” This got me to thinking: Maybe God doesn’t value niceness the same way the modern world does. In fact, if we see passionate zeal like this expressed in the lives of many Biblical leaders, maybe we don’t understand God at all on matters like these. Maybe we’re offended way too easily. It’s great to see Jesus correct the Pharisees but what about when he corrects me? In truth the Gospel is disruptive to us, our definitions and our expectations in so many ways. When we learn that we will finally be at a place of rest and grow into a position of usefulness to our King. Application: What do you think about the boldness of many Biblical leaders? Do Paul’s words to the Galatians seem “mean” to you? What do you think is the benefit of a close relationship in which you can be held accountable with tough love? Do you see a value in seemingly abrasive words from a true friend that are meant to help you grow? Have you ever resisted a friend’s advice that you later came to accept? What happened?