I know what you’re thinking. You’re wondering, “What was it like in Galatia 1,978 years ago?” You’re pondering the question, “What did people in the ancient highlands of modern-day Turkey consider to be ‘important’?” It just so happens that this morning I was reading a first century letter written to people in Galatia! As it turns out, the first century Galatians were fixated on the same things we are …they were addicted to the illusion of self-sufficiency. Like us, they would set their sights on something easy to perceive (like wealth, religious rituals, dress codes, body image, etc.) and then they would engross themselves in endless transactions of scorn and simpering praise. Like us, they longed for people to “like us.” They pined for man’s fleeting adoration. They sought soothsayers to make much of them, but for no good purpose, for the soothsayers suffered from the same self-infatuation; and nothing flourished except the weeds of flimsy transactional flattery. The author of the letter emphatically expresses his perplexity and anguish, and bluntly tells the Galatians they’ve been bewitched! The letter condemns our ephemeral ‘approval’ addiction; and the author confronts our chronic tendency to relapse – turning back to enslave ourselves to weak and worthless versions of ‘validation,’ ‘security,’ ‘coping,’ and ‘pleasure.’ The author of this first century letter honestly asks, “Have I become your enemy by telling you the truth?”
It’s a piercing epistle. The letter speaks as if alive and active. This is no dead, archaic, missive …this is a double-edged sword; penetrating the joint and marrow, and discerning our deepest thoughts and intentions. This letter assaults our addictions, and insists that flesh and fear of man aren’t worth feeding. This letter pervasively declares freedom and fixes our eyes on promise and patrimony. The letter says that merciless slavery days are over, because the fullness of time has come! The Author of the author of this letter has officially entered the story, born of a woman, born under the obligations of perfection; and this Author incarnate ransoms and redeems wretched people like us (people desperate for approval and validation; people chronically crippled under the weight of their regret, grief, shame, and efforts to self-atone)! This letter says that our oppressive enslavement to self is now eclipsed and supplanted by a Spirit who smuggles the truths of adoption into our souls, coaching and compelling us to cry, “Abba! Father!” because against all odds the Author, Almighty God, truly and adamantly wants us as His heirs!