Perplexed

Scott Hoezee

Read: Galatians 4:12-20

I wish I could be present with you now and change my tone. (v. 20)

Paul was often maligned by critics who moved in after Paul had left town. It happened in Corinth and it happened in Galatia, too. In verses 12–20, we see the very human Paul expressing an anguish that is so severe, he goes to some verbal extremes to convey his raw emotions (many passages in 2 Corinthians do this, too).

Paul says that when he had been in Galatia, his relationship with the people had been great. They loved Paul, even though apparently he was enduring a time of bad illness at the time. They hung on Paul’s every word so much that if he had asked for their eyeballs, they would have gouged them out. That may be an exaggeration, but the point remains: they listened to him.

But then they listened to false teachers with a different message, and so now Paul has to talk tough to them. This is a stern letter. But he wants them to know it all comes from love, from a heart that bleeds for them.

It is easy with the distance of history to reduce Bible characters to two-dimensional figures, to stained-glass people who are not real. But an anguished paragraph like this one in Galatians 4 reminds us that Paul was just as human as the rest of us. God doesn’t need plastic saints to do his work. He needs flesh-and-blood folks like Paul, like all of us. That is how the love of Christ gets proclaimed. —Scott Hoezee

Prayer: Thank you for using us just as we are to do your work, Father.