Today’s Chocolate: Endangered Species Dark Chocolate with Caramel and Sea Salt
Today’s Passage: Galatians 2
In his letters, sometimes Paul gets theological, and sometimes he tells stories. Yeah, the categories have some artifice to them—stories are often theological, and theology can take the form of a story—but in today’s chapter, Paul continues telling the Galatians the story he started this letter with.
This segment of the story is about Paul returning to Jerusalem after fourteen years away, and the major point is that he encounters some troubles and hostility, and some people in Jerusalem are insisting that Gentile converts gotta go full Jew in order to become legit Christians. “But it was because of the false brethren secretly brought in, who had sneaked in to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, in order to bring us into bondage” (4), Paul writes. See? False brethren, counterfeiters in the ranks.
But in that first bit of the story, a line grabbed my attention, and it wasn’t about Paul’s trouble with the legalists or those who don’t receive his gospel or the uncooperative high-status Christians in Jerusalem. It’s this verse: “[James, Peter, and John] only asked us to remember the poor—the very thing I also was eager to do” (10). Caring for the poor has for centuries been the people of God’s calling card: mandated in the Torah, shown as a virtue in the Old Testament narratives, demonstrated by Jesus Christ himself, and a crucial element in the spread of the gospel. But man, do I remember the poor? Am I eager to remember the poor? Hardly.
Man, Paul. Hit me where I live without even trying.
Anyway, the second part of Paul’s story here concerns Peter, who has stopped taking meals with Gentiles whenever there are certain Jews around, and he’s proving to be a bad example. Paul tells the Galatians about how he rebuked Peter, and then he takes a moment to elaborate on the theology implicit in his story. We don’t get our right standing with God by following the Torah, he explains. Peter let this misunderstanding go unchecked among the Jews he was so eager to impress; he was “not straightforward about the truth of the gospel” (14). But Paul tells his readers: “We have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified” (16). Trusting Christ is what gets you God’s stamp of approval. It’s not something you earn by measuring up to some legal standard or system; it’s a gift, it’s getting your old ways crucified, it’s receiving a new life in the resurrected Messiah.
To bring the lesson home: I’ve got the itch to care for the poor? Good. I should care for the poor. But it’s not being “good enough” at caring for the poor that justifies me before God; it’s not ticking the box. It’s trusting Jesus Christ, who cared for me in my spiritual poverty, who died to give me life. That’s the real gospel, and it’s at work inside of me.
I finished the caramel chocolate donated by Ash Green of Plan X Media today. On the interior of the wrapper, there’s all these neat bald eagle facts. Did you know bald eagles have a wingspan of six to seven feet? Imagine spreading out your arms and being able to fit a human between your fingertips with room to spare. That’s what bald eagles do when they fly. Hunting and environmental pollutants are among the threats to bald eagles, but fortunately their populations are on the rise, thanks to the Endangered Species Act and other anti-pollutant measures.
Take good care of this world God’s given us, fam. Be good stewards.