A letter from Paul (and the rest of God’s family here with me), an Apostle whose authority is not connected with any human certification process or any human organization, but comes from Jesus himself, and from God who brought him back to life, to the gatherings in Galatia.
May God, who is our parent, and Jesus, who gave himself for our wrongdoing so that we could be free from the current mess the world is in, grant you grace and peace. That’s what God wanted. May God be forever acclaimed. Yes, may it be so.
As we look at Paul’s difficulties, perhaps one of the most fruitful possibilities is to learn from his mistakes.
Galatians is one of the earliest letters we have from Paul. (1 Thessalonians may be earlier, but it’s really a toss-up.) Perhaps what’s so astonishing about it is how things have gone so quickly sour. Already, it’s to the point that there is a broadly held misgiving among the churches throughout an entire region that Paul isn’t really a bona fide apostle. And who could blame them for being a little suspicious? After all, he wasn’t one of the twelve. To make matters worse, he wasn’t even in agreement with the twelve about a great many things.
Right at the beginning of this letter, Paul has to legitimate his claim to be an apostle, and the only legitimation he can give is that he has a vision straight from God. It was a hard sell then, and it’s still a hard sell now.
What buys Paul an audience, though, is his promise to make a case that Jesus can somehow get us out of the mess the world is in. If he can make a convincing case for that – well, maybe we’ll be able to believe the part about his direct line to God. It’s a hard case to make in just six short chapters.
So, what can we take away from this? An offer of hope trumps a claim to authority. Every time.
Instead of standing on ceremony, or insisting on credentials, or pulling rank, what hope can you offer the world today?