Read Galatians 5 :
Have you ever watched a slide tackle on soccer? An offensive player, usually running with the ball is suddenly tripped up when their opponent slides into them, usually from the side causing them to stumble, fall, and sometimes even be injured. Even in its mildest form, the slide tackle causes the offensive person to take their eyes and mind off ball, and often stops them from scoring.
A debate had arisen in the Galatian church regarding the practice of circumcision. It seems at first glance like a reasonable thing to potentially argue about. Jews had been commanded by God to be circumcised. Circumcision was the symbol the Jewish male’s willingness to obey God who does not change. So it’s no surprise that new Christians in the young church were wrestling with the idea of circumcision and whether new Christians should submit to the practice. Some formerly Jewish Christians said yes, and others in the church said no.
It sounds like a discussion that could be held in a bible study or Sunday school class. Paul however did not view this as a harmless discussion at all. In fact, Paul said that the Galatian church had gotten slide tackled by the issue of circumcision. The church had missed the point, taken their eye off the ball. The issue, according to Paul was not circumcision at all, the issue was freedom in Christ. The very debate showed that they had missed the point entirely. He sums it up in verse 6, “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.”
We tend sometimes to get caught up in the minutia of interpreting scripture specifically, getting the nuance and meaning of every word. This is an important practice, but if all your study causes you discord with those around you, if your interpretations of the bible’s teachings cause you to become divided with other believers then Galatians 5:6 is for you and it is for me.
The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.
Galatians 5 is not only a lesson in Christian freedom; it includes a warning about how to discern the difference between the flesh and the Sprit. Among other sins listed Paul includes factions. If only the Church had listened to this warning. I wonder how much more powerful our witness might be in the world today. Accuracy in interpreting scripture is important; God is not ambivalent about our actions as Christian’s. But love is the primary fruit of the spirit and without love, we simply have nothing.
Don’t get slide tackled today.