Paul and the Galatians
“But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, ‘If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?’” (Galatians 2:14 ESV)
In the book of Galatians, Paul addresses a church that he fears has strayed from the true Gospel that he originally shared with them.
He writes in Galatians 1:6-7, “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—not that there is a another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.”
Later on in Paul’s letter, it becomes clear that the way in which the church of Galatia has fallen away from the true gospel is through their hypocritical witness.
Have we become hypocrites?
The main problem that Paul highlights in Galatians 2:14, is that the Jews of Galatia are holding the Gentiles to standards of righteousness that they themselves are not even meeting. In other words, the Jews of Galatia are failing to lead, and love, the Gentiles by example.
What does this look like today?
Speaking from my own experience, it is so easy to judge other people (Christian or not) based on their outward appearance, mistakes they have made, things that they say, etc. When I am guilty of passing judgment on someone, it means I have made a decision in my mind about whether or not I am a better Christian than them. Thoughts like “Wow, her dress is really short,” or “Did you hear that word that he just said?” do absolutely nothing to bring me towards a deeper understanding of the person I am observing; all that these thoughts do is give me a false sense of satisfaction about my own faith by degrading someone else’s.
And it needs to stop.
Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- What are some ways in which I make judgments about the faith/righteousness of people around me?
- What does my own life look in regards to the things I am judging other people about?
- If I were struggling with this sin, how would I like to be encouraged?
- How can I encourage others instead of just making judgments about them?
Asking yourself the question “How is my Christian witness?” is a cliché, but effective way of reassessing how your faith plays out on a day-to-day basis. One of the things that happen when we begin to fall asleep in our faith is that we become blind to our own faith while becoming increasingly critical of the faith of people around us.
Holding ourselves to the same (or higher) standards to which we hold other people is important not only for our own integrity, but also for the sake of growth and progress. When we make judgments about the faith and righteousness of other people we are not doing anything to encourage them to grow. If it does anything at all it only pushes them farther away from God.
Be an active encourager of others
As believers, especially if we’ve been a part of the Church for a while, it is our responsibility to be active encouragers of those around us. Rather than making prideful judgments about people, which only causes tension and division, we need to be active in our encouragement by being a humble and loving example.