I have a friend who translated this from Greek. I usually trust his translations since he is further along in the Biblical studies program than me and is a bit more book smart than I am.
“You were running well; who hindered you so that you are not persuaded by the truth? Such deceptive persuasion is not from the one who calls you. A little yeast leavens the whole lump of dough. I am persuaded regarding you in the Lord that you will think nothing different; but the one who is confusing you will bear condemnation, whoever that one is. But I, brothers and sisters, if I am still preaching circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? Then the stumbling block of the cross has been rendered powerless. I wish even that those who are confusing you would castrate themselves. For you were called for freedom, brothers and sisters; only, not the freedom for an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For all the law has been fulfilled in one word, in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you are biting and devouring one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.” Gal. 5:7-15
This differs than some translations, so if somone jumps and yells, do not be surprised. The idea is the same.
I like this particular passage in light of Pauls Jewishness. If you know anything about Paul’s past, he was probably a zealot. He probably at one time hated the Romans (or any Empire that rules over Israel). He definitely hated the Christian sect of Judaism at one time. It is very peculiar to see Judaism of that day take on a militant, exclusivist face. To put a description onto the Zealots for you, Zealots were the guys who thought the Jews must rule the Holy Land and that ANY means of getting that back was deamed okay since God was on their side (sounds a bit like America and other countries who can sometimes say that we will win because God is on their side).
Something that seems even more peculiar is that the Jews were very identity oriented. If you look at their circumcision law alone, it seems like the ultimate answer to an identity crisis. Paul of course was a Jew. And in being one, he probably was very exclusivist in his old days and was violently opposed to anyone who said that God following should accept differences. Something changed. Paul admitted that if he was still pushing the circumcision law of the Jews, why was he still being persecuted (by Jews).
It is funny that Paul wanted the Gentiles to be released from first century Judaism. I have looked at what Judaism became by that time, and although I can understand why took violent, rebellious roles, I wonder why they did not take a step back and ask how they were fulfilling the law. There is a big difference between following the law and fulfilling the law, but oh how we find that we have unwittingly crossed.
Remember that Jesus was challenging the Jews during his entire ministry. He basically said to them, “You want a messiah, and I am it. But how can you not want what the Messiah wants and want a messiah.”
I think we do that today as well. The church as a whole tends to have many agendas running around claiming to be a messiah, a savior, an answer, yet we don’t realize that the answer is guiding us already. It doesn’t have to be new. It doesn’t have to be old. It just has to fulfill the Law. Look in Matthew where Jesus talks about the two core principles of the Law. Love God and love people is Jesus answer. All the big guns of the Scriptures rest on this principal. Same thing is found in the passage above.
That’s what it takes to fulfill the law. That’s what it takes to honor God’s will. It is the way of peace and glory and goodness. No other rebellion, revolution, nation, messiah, or whatever is going to change that. God’s desire of love and service towards all humanity in the end comes to be subversive to many of our agendas to further our own nations, families, companies, nations, cause, etc. God wants to bless these things, but there is always something different going on with him that we do not get. So let go of the agendas and open your heart.
Sometimes the actions you think are sinful are not.
Sometimes the theologies you think are pure end up being tainted.
So instead of looking at the new people coming in with baggage and different ways of expression, hold your tongue for at least the amount of time it takes you to discover something refreshing. Instead of going into a church thinking that you are going to set their place straight, stop your speach for at least the amount of time it takes for you to dive into new context.
I dare you to do something. Read the book of Acts. Read it to the very end and then think about this: How does this story resolve? My analysis is that it doesn’t. Why does it not end? I propose that it has implications for the all Church history. If the first book of Church history does not have a literary ending, maybe certain aspects the state of the Church’s doctrine, theology, or faith is not actually in stone. And maybe the Bible does not say what we should do about certain things, which makes things hard.
But it does open the door to dialogue…