bible blog 957

This blog is a meditation on the Episcopal daily readings along with a headline from world news:

Greek authorities accused of torturing detainees:

one of the detainees

one of the detainees

Galatians 4:12-20

12 Friends,* I beg you, become as I am, for I also have become as you are. You have done me no wrong.13You know that it was because of a physical infirmity that I first announced the gospel to you;14though my condition put you to the test, you did not scorn or despise me, but welcomed me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus.15What has become of the goodwill you felt? For I testify that, had it been possible, you would have torn out your eyes and given them to me.16Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth?17They make much of you, but for no good purpose; they want to exclude you, so that you may make much of them.18It is good to be made much of for a good purpose at all times, and not only when I am present with you.19My little children, for whom I am again in the pain of childbirth until Christ is formed in you,20I wish I were present with you now and could change my tone, for I am perplexed about you.

Of course, no teacher likes other teachers with different views gaining access to their best pupils! It’s possible to see Paul’s attitude as no more than professional jealousy. I hope my previous blogs is this series 949-956) have explained the seriousness of Paul’s concern: he sees his converts lapsing back into religious practices which will deprive them of the true gospel,which is not at all religious. But in addition to this spiritual concern, Paul expresses a sense of betrayed affection. He has arrived in Galatia in need of care and had received it from them. How can others have the same relationship with them? He casts himself as their spiritual mother, in labour until “Messiah Jesus is formed in you.”

It seems to me that Paul is writing with real pain about a real affection. In my fiction about Paul (Paul: An Unauthorised Autobiography, by Mike Mair, pub. Kindle Online) I speculate that Paul arrived in Galatia with eyes injured by journeying along a salt lake in bright sunshine; and benefitted from the warmth and traditional healing skills of his hosts. The Galatians were Celts, related to the peoples of Galicia, Galway, Galloway amongst many others. Their art is one of marvellous intricacy and elaboration. They might very well have responded to the wisdom and practices of the Jewish Torah. Paul was sure that all that was mere religion and a backward step from being “children of God.”

Here is my version of Paul dictating the story of  his Galatian visit to his scribe, Mr Handy:

galatianheavyswordsmenfb0Ecfaur, their chief, whose name is one of the many taken from the life of the river, it means Big Salmon, told us in twenty different ways, how welcome we were, which a hapless assistant translated again and again into the same Greek words. I understood however, what was happening. In my reply to the chief I told him that we had been made as welcome as the melting waters after the winter ice, as the first warmth of spring, as a drink of water to a traveller on the salt-lake, and so on. This was well received, each variation being accorded its own applause. I gave repeated thanks to Marhlan for sparing me his children. I dared to make a joke saying that my companions were young men who had to be watched strictly, but that I was so old they could trust their women with me. The clan responded with loud laughter and inventive gestures from both men and women, which made me feel I might not be a complete disaster as a public orator, my son. I told them that we were travelling, as messengers from a battle bringing glad tidings of victory, which I could announce, if they wanted to hear them.

Marhlan spoke as one accustomed to an audience, in a more ordinary mode of speech. He told us that this clan was open to anyone’s wisdom at any time but had discovered there were not many wise people in the world.   I said that the battle of which I spoke was not a flesh-and-blood one, but a spiritual battle against the evil powers that ruled the world.   “These are powers of evil at work in families, communities, nations and empires. They’re not visible, but their rule is seen in the suffering of the poor, the sick, the weak and the slave, and the greed of the rich, the healthy, the strong and the free, in every nation. In our inhabited world, these powers employ Rome and their produce is death. Jesus Messiah, the Son of God, took up arms against the evil powers. He taught people that we do not need to obey them, because the kingdom of God is always open to us, a rule that brings generosity, justice, peace and life. He stood against the rich and powerful of his nation and opposed the false religion of self-righteousness. He brought the blessings of the great God into the lives of ordinary people and was rewarded by death on a Roman cross. On that cross, he did not give in but fought the powers of evil and death to a standstill. The great God has therefore awarded him the victory and lifted him from death, to carry on the battle, no longer in his own earthly body, but in the bodies of his followers, amongst whom Titus, Timotheos and myself, are numbered. We’re like recruitment officers, looking for people to fight the battle under Jesus’ sign, the sign of the cross. The glad tidings that I announce are that the battle has been won by Messiah Jesus in single combat, but his troops need to claim the victory everywhere, perhaps even here in Ancyra.”

spiritual warfare

spiritual warfare

“What about real warfare?” I was asked. I said that the sword should only be used for justice and defence, and then only as a last resort. Peace and honour could often be created by forgiveness and reconciliation.

Mair, Michael (2011-07-21). St. Paul: An Unauthorised Autobiography (Kindle Locations 4202-4209). Michael Mair. Kindle Edition.

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