The Beautiful Mess of Gospel Community

by May 10, 2017

The Beautiful Mess of Gospel Community

by May 10, 2017

The Beautiful Mess of Gospel Community

by May 10, 2017

We’ve been studying the book of Galatians on Sunday mornings, and right out of the gate, Paul lays down the gospel. God our Father wants to give us grace and peace, and that happens through the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age. And this all happens according to the will of God.

It’s not because of anything we do, it’s not even because of anything we decide. It’s all God, and so it’s only God who deserves glory forever and ever. We’re just the recipients of his grace. Nothing more, and nothing less. That’s what unites us.

We’re beggars in a back alley, and we’ve found this five-star restaurant where the chef slips his best dishes out the back door every night. We’ve decided to camp outside the door. Why wouldn’t we? We’ve found this epic food, so we’re all huddled around the chef’s door. That’s what brings us together. It’s not anything about ourselves, it’s the chef.

Unfortunately, after a while, that’s not enough for some of us. Because down deep, we don’t really like being dependent. We don’t like not being the ones in charge. We don’t like the fact that the chef is the center of attention, not us. We want to stand out.

So one day, I decide to take all of the money I made from the soda cans I collected in the park, and I go buy a tuxedo. I start showing up at the back door for dinner every night wearing a tux. It makes me feel like I deserve to eat this food! The next week you decide you want a tux too. And the next week a few more people are dressing up for dinner.

Pretty soon, we’re looking down on all the people eating this exquisite food in their shorts and slippers. What a bunch of losers!

That’s what people do. We love to judge ourselves and then group ourselves based on outward things. And that’s exactly what was happening in the Galatian church when Paul wrote his letter. They all started out as one happy family, just a bunch of people who were saved by Jesus. Merely recipients of his grace.

But then, one day some of them decided that wasn’t enough. They wanted more, so they decided to start following some of the Jewish customs. Circumcision. Food restrictions. Ritual ceremonies. The people who followed these customs started looking down on all the people who didn’t do what they were doing.

So Paul wrote Galatians to bring them all back to the gospel. To bring them all back to Jesus. He wants to show them (and us all) that Jesus is all we need.

After fourteen years I went up to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along with me. 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. But even Titus, who was with me, was not forced to be circumcised, though he was a Greek. (Galatians 2:1-3).

Paul has visited the apostles in the Jerusalem church, and his thinking is this: If there was anyone who would say that you need to follow the Jewish customs if you want to be a real Christian, it would have to be the leaders in Jerusalem, right? All of them are already following all those customs. And every other church in the world has come out of that church, so it would be easy for them to say that every other church needs to do church the same way they do church.

But they don’t say that: “Even Titus, who was with me, was not forced to be circumcised, though he was a Greek.” We later find out that some “false brothers” in the church wanted to make him be circumcised, but the leaders refused to force him. That’s why this verse is one of the most important verses in the Bible. Without it, you and I probably wouldn’t be Christians. If this verse wasn’t in the Bible, then every Christian in the world would have to conform to one culture. We’d all have to look the same, dress the same, eat the same food, perform the same rituals.

If that version of Christianity would have won, there’s no way the gospel would have spread across the Roman Empire. There’s no way the gospel would have spread around the world. There’s no way the gospel would have come to Hawaii. That’s why this verse is so important. It’s right up there with “For God so Loved the World…” and “The Lord is My Shepherd…” and “For I Know the Plans I Have for You.” You see all those verses on people’s walls, and plastered on people’s Instagram feeds, but for some reason I’ve never seen anyone post this verse: “Titus was not forced to be circumcised.”

[perfectpullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Faith isn’t about what you can do for God, it’s about what God has already done for you through Jesus Christ. Period.[/perfectpullquote]This verse might seem completely irrelevant to us, but it’s at the heart of the gospel. Because this verse tells you that your faith isn’t about what you can do for God, it’s about what God has already done for you through Jesus Christ. Period. You can’t add anything to the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus.

That’s the good news. And that’s what unites us together into a beautifully messy community of people from all different races, cultures, customs, backgrounds, socio-economic standings, neighborhoods, preferences, and propensities.

We don’t look the same, act the same, or like the same food. But we’re all undeserving recipients of God’s grace. And that’s all that matters.