12 Brethren, I urge you to become like me, for I became like you. You have not injured me at all. 13 You know that because of physical infirmity I preached the gospel to you at the first. 14 And my trial which was in my flesh you did not despise or reject, but you received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus. 15 What then was the blessing you enjoyed? For I bear you witness that, if possible, you would have plucked out your own eyes and given them to me. 16 Have I therefore become your enemy because I tell you the truth?
17 They zealously court you, but for no good; yes, they want to exclude you, that you may be zealous for them. 18 But it is good to be zealous in a good thing always, and not only when I am present with you. 19 My little children, for whom I labor in birth again until Christ is formed in you, 20 I would like to be present with you now and to change my tone; for I have doubts about you.
In today’s passage, Paul is reminding the Galatians of the great love they showed him when he came to them injured. It appears that this is the area that Paul ministered in after he was stoned in Acts 14, in which case he was probably quite a mess when he arrived. They cared for him and received the Gospel message then, so he now wonders if they have changed their minds about him because of the correction he brings.
Notice that the reason the religious Jews are trying to turn the Galatian believers back to the law is to gain a following. We see that they are creating an exclusive environment by laying out performance standards so that people will pursue their acceptance rather than true grace. They are forming a religious clique.
Unfortunately, this is all too common in churches. People come to church and experience exclusion and separation because they look different or have visible junk in their lives. In truth, the people pretending to have it all together have junk, too; they just put a facade over it and feel better about themselves because of how they look compared to others. Consequently, the new folks face either striving to fit in or just forgetting about God altogether.
What if we were zealous for grace? Paul reminds us that it is good to be zealous for the right thing. The Galatians were zealous for grace, but Paul left and they started going the wrong way. We must be brave enough to be zealous for grace all of the time. We must use this zeal to apprehend grace for our own lives so that we don’t feel the need for a facade and can live free from guilt and condemnation. From there, we can be zealous for grace toward others who need to know that religion isn’t the answer.