PAUL SOUNDS A LITTLE INSANE in the letter he wrote to churches in Turkey. That letter, preserved in the Bible, is Galatians. (I just posted a new paraphrase of Galatians at the online Casual English Bible.)
I don’t mean Paul seems clinically insane, like some contemporary world leaders I desperately want to call out by name.
I’m talking about the kind of temporary insanity that comes to all of us from time to time, showing itself in puff-faced anger, teeth-grinding resolve, and heart-hammering blood pressure that could silence a redhead.
Not that the good Lord can’t use stern talk now and again. Jesus got stern. He sometimes called people nasty names, to make his point. “You are nothing but snakes and the children of snakes!” (Matthew 23:33 CEV).
But Jesus had a filter. For example, there’s no indication he ever told circumcised men they should finish the job—and cut the whole thing off.
Paul had planted churches throughout central Turkey, in a province the Romans called Galatia. After Paul left, along came some Jewish followers of Jesus—“counterfeit Christians,” Paul called them. They argued that to be a good Christian, you had to be a good Jew. You had to follow all the laws, including kosher food rules and circumcision.
Paul gone wild
Here are a few excerpts from Paul’s letter to Galatian churches. See if you think Paul came on too strong?
- “Okay, I’m going to say it one more time. If anyone stands in front of you and preaches a version of the Good News that clashes with the message you’ve already received, let that person be damned” (1:9).
- “Doggone it, Peter. You were born a Jew, but you don’t live like it. You don’t observe Jewish laws anymore. So why on earth are you trying to get non-Jews to live like Jews?” (2:14).
- “You Galatians are just plain ignorant! Who put a hex on you? You’re acting like you’re blind. Didn’t you see the news that Jesus the Messiah was crucified?” (3:1).
- “Are you out of your mind? You started your spiritual journey with the help of the Spirit. But now you want to go the rest of the way by helping yourself—earning your way with good behavior” (3:3).
- “What happened to you? Where’d the joy go? I swear, there was a time when you’d tear your eyeballs right out of your head and hand them to me, if I had asked. But now, suddenly I’m your enemy for telling you the truth?” (4:15-16).
- “I wish those circumcision lovers messing with you would just go ahead and cut their whole thing off!” (5:12).
- “Lay off me. I don’t want any more trouble. I already carry enough scars on my body for the sake of Jesus” (6:17).
This letter isn’t all about anger. In fact, it’s mostly a defense of the Christian teaching that we’re saved by trusting in God, not by obeying Jewish rules.
Next blog, on Thursday, will feature some of my favorite snippets from his letter: “My favorite lines in Paul’s angriest letter.”
Meanwhile, feel free to take a look at the short, six-chapter letter. It’s quite fun to read.
I created a leader’s guide and atlas for groups that want to study the book. It’s available as a PDF download for $1.
Casual English Bible
Leader’s Guide & Atlas for Galatians, Casual English Bible
I needed to read this today, Mr. Miller! Thank You! #TemporarilyCrazyLikePaul 🙂