A Family of Faith and Flesh – Galatians 1:11

“For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel.” –Galatians 1:11

This past Thanksgiving was the first one where I was completely away from my family. Though I have only been home to Ohio twice in the past six years, while in college I had the opportunity to spend Thanksgiving with my sister, brother-in-law, and his family in Missouri. Now, being at a new place (with my nearest family member nine hours away), I knew it wouldn’t be possible for me to spend Thanksgiving with my family. I was seriously prepared to eat macaroni and cheese, sit alone, and watch TV all day. What happened instead was a pleasant surprise.

A family at church invited me, and my roommate Kevin, and his dad to their cabin in the Adirondacks for the weekend. Thanksgiving was a holiday where all of their family came together. I had the privilege of not just hanging out with this great family, but I also got to meet aunts and uncles, cousins, and grandparents. There were almost twenty people there for the meal, and thirteen people crammed in the cabin for the weekend. It was the perfect break I needed amidst a hectic time of the year.

Right after Paul spends a considerable amount of time accusing the Galatians of deserting the gospel, he starts his next section by calling them “brothers” (or “brothers and sisters” for you politically correct folk out there). Right when the Galatians were probably starting to fidget in their seats, Paul points to his motive behind writing them. Of course it was because he cared about the truth of the gospel being proclaim, that is obvious. But if the reader forgets that Paul is writing the Galatians out of love, then the tone of the letter will not make sense. It will seem as though Paul is a ranting child and not a man concerned for the welfare of his family.

Just as the Galatians start to wonder if Paul is abandoning them, he reminds them that they are his family. They are “brothers” – not of flesh, but of faith. To be family isn’t just something one is born into for Paul. This is a theological claim. The Jews believed that one was part of the people of God by birth. To be in God’s family, one had to be born into it. Paul is calling them brothers, because he is reminding them that they have nothing to prove. They are already in the family of God. They don’t need to get circumcised. They don’t need to listen to the false teachers who have come in.

They are welcomed into the family of God by faith in Christ. This is the part of the gospel they have forgotten.

When I showed up to this family’s cabin, I didn’t expect to be welcomed in as one of their own… but I was. Even though I have only known these people for a few short months, they invited me to be a part of their family. We had devotions in the morning. We played board games in the afternoon. We watched movies at night. I even got to wield my first firearm! By the end of the weekend, I felt like I was a part of them. I felt like family.

Do you see your brothers and sisters in Christ as actual brothers and sisters? Do you hurt when they hurt? Or do you just shake hands with whoever is sitting near you during the weekend service? God is calling us to be united in him. He is reminding us who we are. We are a family. This isn’t just your church family. This is everyone who is in Christ.

What can you do to help your family? Maybe it is welcoming someone to dinner. Maybe it is helping someone find a job. Maybe it is praying for a brother or sister who has a loved one in the hospital.

We are a family.

We are the family of God.

We cannot be a house divided.


The UnThanksgiving Dinner

Thanksgiving was last week. This is a holiday full of family traditions. I know my family has them. A common tradition among many people is to sit around the table, and one-by-one share one thing they are thankful for. Maybe it is a new job/car. Maybe it is family or friends. Maybe it is the delicious food. Sure enough, most people can at least find one thing that they are thankful for during this holiday.

Now imagine sitting in a “Bizarro” world. There is no Superman anymore. It is like a Seinfeld episode gone wrong. In this world, every one at the Thanksgiving table says not what they are thankful for, but they say what they are unthankful for instead. Maybe it is family or friends. Maybe it is untimely circumstances. Maybe it is Obamacare. Hopefully it isn’t the meal. It would be a truly eerie feeling to be a fly on the wall during a situation like this. It’s a Bizarro World, so it is okay for flies to have feelings.

This is one of only a couple letters in which Paul doesn’t give a word of thanksgiving to the church he is corresponding with. And when Paul doesn’t give a thanksgiving, it is not good! It was customary during the time to have a section of praise to the people being written to. Imagine how the people must have felt when they realized this section was skipped. They knew that when this section was skipped that Paul must have been upset. They knew Paul was writing with urgency.

Paul didn’t include a thanksgiving, possibly because he had nothing to be thankful for.

The people were about to accept a false gospel, and Paul wanted to make sure that they knew he didn’t agree with it. He wasn’t happy with them. He wasn’t thankful.

If Paul were to write a letter to you, what would he have to say in his thanksgiving? Would he say anything at all? Or would he be so worried about what is going on in your life, or with your friends, or in your church, that he wouldn’t even take time to touch on what he would be thankful for?

Take time today to remember someone who you are thankful for today, and let them know how much you appreciate them! And take time today to make yourself someone who others might be thankful for.

Oh!.. and if you don’t have anything nice to say, follow Paul’s example, and say nothing at all.