When I was 8 years old, all I wanted to do was swing.
I ran to the swings on the playground when the recess bell rang. I spent hours seeing how high I could go on my swing set at home. When I was sad, I let the swing rock me gently. When I was happy, I imagined I could swing to reach up and touch a cloud and grab it, just for the joy of it. When I was bored, I imagined that the swing was an airplane, taking me on travels far and wide.
When I sat on a swing, I was free.
When I sat on a swing, the world was lovely.
Then I started to grow up, and there was less recess and more responsibilities.
I looked around the world and instead of seeing lovely, I saw loneliness. I saw disconnection. Worse than anything, I saw prejudice and I saw hate. I saw people excluded because of their race, or because of what part of town they lived in. I had friends who were talked down to, or who talked down to others, because they weren’t part of “the cool kids.”
The swing couldn’t bring the same relief. Hate, in particular prejudice, is a weight too heavy for any child’s heart to bear.
Paul felt the weight of prejudice, on behalf of the Galatians too.
Read Galatians 2:1-6 and see if you can identify all the “players” in the story Paul recounts:
Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along with me. 2 I went up because of a revelation and set before them (though privately before those who seemed influential) the gospel that I proclaim among the Gentiles, in order to make sure I was not running or had not run in vain. 3 But even Titus, who was with me, was not forced to be circumcised, though he was a Greek. 4 Yet because of false brothers secretly brought in—who slipped in to spy out our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might bring us into slavery— 5 to them we did not yield in submission even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you. 6 And from those who seemed to be influential (what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality)—those, I say, who seemed influential added nothing to me.
Except that this account was all too real. Imagine Paul’s struggle. Notice how many times he uses the words we, us, and our. These were people he was deeply connected to.
Sometimes, because many of us live in a free country, we often forget that we are easily enslaved. We become so entrapped by our “identities”- the particular groups we are in, the heritage we have, our personal individuality – that we miss that these things can wrap themselves around our throats and choke the life out of us.
The Judaizers wanted the Gentile believers to be circumcised, to be branded with Israel as Jewish converts, before they could be considered “real believers.”
Notice how many things I have put in quotation marks so far in this study post! One of Paul’s lessons throughout the book of Galatians is this:
These aren’t even real things! They are just things we throw our identities in. They may look and feel real to us, but at best they are abstract ideas, race, cultural heritage, cliques, and groups, and at worst they only stand to separate us from who we are together…
Created Children of God.
That is our identity.
We have one identity and one identity alone worth reporting – who the Gospel of Christ Jesus has made us.
Free. Loved. Alive. Worthy. Held.
And as Paul says, now we go about preserving that Gospel so that everyone would know that freedom. Christ Jesus came to save sinners. The last time I checked, that was every single one of us.
Our hearts would burst out of us if we didn’t get to tell them about His great love – whether circumcised or uncircumcised, wearing boxer briefs or girly underwear, eating burgers or grape leaves, black, white, or pink with flamingo wings. I say that tongue in cheek, but
who, who would we want to miss Him?
Knowing Jesus – it’s like sitting on a swing, as the wind rushes through your ears, hair flying, heart pounding, feet almost touching the skies where the Most High dwells, catching a cloud, thanking Him for every day we can live a little bit freer than the last, because of His cross.
What was your favorite thing to do at recess when you were a kid?
What “identities” have you claimed or wanted in your life- ethnic, racial, team related, groups, etc.?
What is it about our identities in Christ that surpasses all that other stuff? Why is the impact so huge?
How have you seen Christ cross ethnic, cultural, racial, and other divides?