A few words about humanity. In verse 12, Paul is wishing physical, painful, permanent harm on the Judaizers who are insisting Christians be circumcised. He’s saying, “since they’re already downstairs with that knife, why don’t they just cut off the other organs while they’re at it?”
Not very nice. Let’s be real: that isn’t very nice.
But I’m glad it’s in the Bible. It shows the humanity of the people who were part of the book when it was written. To me, this verse is like the story of Samson, who was an arrogant, vain, womanizing brute while serving as Israel’s judge. It’s like the story of David, whose pride and lust impacted his kingdom. It’s like the story of Moses, who argued with God to simply send someone else. Or Abraham, who lied about his wife to save his own skin. It’s like the story of Peter, who denied Christ, then later foolishly, temporarily sided with the Judaizers about similar controversies. We could be any of those people.
To be honest, Paul’s comment seems flippant, like something bawdy you would say off the cuff. Except that it wasn’t. It was deliberate, possibly dictated when it was originally written. The statement was included deliberately. Paul had preached the Gospel to the people of Galatia, then left. In his absence, some people challenged his authority by insisting the new Christians follow Jewish laws and customs. This heretic insistence was something Paul took personally because, to him, the faith of the Galatians was a matter of personal importance.
Paul’s unkind wish here isn’t politically correct, or contemporarily woke. Then again, those are positions of cowardice, and Paul was no coward. Instead, Paul was human. He said and did things that were sometimes rash, sometimes flawed. He personally responded to people who seemed to be personally challenging both Paul and the message he preached. In doing so, in this verse, he lashed out.
Just like me. Just like you. Granted, our rash statements probably (hopefully) won’t be read two thousand years from now. In this lifetime, they’re ours all the same. We made them. God heard them. They can’t be taken back or denied. Just like Paul’s. As Tullian Tchividian might say, the beautiful thing about Christianity is that we ALL need God’s grace. That we’re all sinners so irredeemable that our only way out is Christ’s boundless mercy. God has mercy on us even when we say or do unkind things.
So, I’m glad Paul’s statement is in the Bible. It shows he’s human. Perhaps he had reached a breaking point and snapped at his opponents; that would be understandable. Almost any of us would do that.
For further reading: Galatians 5:13
Lord, thank You for the account of Paul, even for the harsh wish he spoke on the antagonizers
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