I’m convinced that most churches these days have skipped over or completely missed the point of Galatians.
It’s not just a simple reiteration of Paul’s ministry and interactions with the church.
It’s more than just the two verses that describe the fruits of the Spirit that we were taught to memorize in Sunday School.
The Book of Galatians is a serious reprimand to the church in Galatia.
The Book of Galatians is a warning, if not another reprimand, to today’s churches. And in my opinion, to today’s Malayalee churches.
“Now when Peter had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed; for before certain men came from James, he would eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision. And the rest of the Jews also played the hypocrite with him, so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy.”
~Galatians 2:11-13 (NKJV)
Now replace Peter and the Jews with yourself and your church and replace the Gentiles with co-workers, friends, colleagues, other churches.
I know that in today’s American Pentecostal Malayalee churches there is talk of reaching the unreached and the unsaved coworker and colleague and people of other races, but the sermons are sprinkled with unintentionally racist comments and the overall impetuous that to be saved all jewelry, makeup and tattoos need to be removed.
Our APM Churches push the fancy dresses and tailored suits and look down their noses at the casually dressed worshiper as less-than-spiritual.
My mom scolds me for wearing jeans to church and wearing rings (not in church, but when I go out every now and then) and bracelets (WWJD and other ministry bands). It’s just “unbecoming” of an APM pastor’s firstborn son.
We recently had a speaker at our church visiting us who had converted from the Orthodox church to the Pentecostal church.
My mother mentioned my jeans and jewelry to him, expecting that I would be “set straight”.
I responded to my mom, in front of the pastor, and asked, “Mom, how many white sari’s do you own? How much gilt is on your saris?”
To which our guest, who was in an uncomfortable position, replied, “He has a valid point.”
End of discussion.
There was a time when my mom wouldn’t wear certain sari’s because they were too flashy, too gaudy or had too much gilt. But that was ten years ago.
Our grandparents wore white saris and outfits and removed their jewelry to set themselves apart when the Pentecostal movement started in India. That was about 30-40 years ago.
Now in the APM church jewelry and fine clothes are no longer about defining a movement, but about following a standard, a rule, a law that has been defined by a people.
It defines if you are a part of the club or not.
Are your clothes nice enough?
Sari’s of the proper quality?
Shirts pressed with matching ties?
Hair well- maintained and managed?
While this whole idea started with good intentions, it’s become legalistic. It’s become bondage.
“O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified? This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?”
~Galatians 3:1-3 (NKJV)
It’s a recurring theme and problem throughout the Bible, both Old Testament and New Testament, of Jews and Christians who have turned tradition into law and identified these laws as a process of salvation and redemption instead of having a relationship with Christ.
But God doesn’t look at our jewelry or lack there of.
He doesn’t look on our jeans or our suits or dresses or saris.
Does it matter if you wear jewelry or not?
Or is it more important that you seek and desire to know the heart of God?
Does it matter if you wear jeans or suits to church?
Or is it more important that you lift up those around you to know God and draw nearer to Him?
For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love.
~Galatians 5:6 (NKJV)
This past Sunday I wore jeans to church like I normally do.
This past Sunday I led worship like I normally do.
This past Sunday was an amazing time of worship.
This past Sunday I heard “uncles” and “aunties” humming and singing the songs after the service was over.
This past Sunday I heard comments on how much they enjoyed the English worship.
This past Sunday I heard no comments on my jeans or lack of a blazer.
This past Sunday gave me hope that our church can slowly step away from the past 25+ years of APM legalism.
I pray for our generation and the next to not be led by traditions and culture, but by the Spirit of Christ that has a standard that never changes.
“I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.”
Galatians 5:16-26 (NKJV)