Shake it off! (Galatians 1)

Shake it off! (Galatians 1)

Do anything and you’ll be criticized for it. It’s been said that everybody is an expert in three things: football, politics and the life of others. But how do we pick the people we listen to? How much should we care about what others think of us? How can we break free from the criticism that only drags us down? As Paul is teaching Galatians trapped in legalism about true freedom, he points to his own life as a model and answers these questions on the go.

First he mentions that he hadn’t received the gospel through men but directly from Jesus Christ. In other words, his faith was not based on people but on a personal revelation from God. Only few of us would have such a drastic revelation that he received while on the road to Damascus, but we too need to have those personal God-moments that we can point back to when criticism hits. If your faith’s foundation is a man, a pastor, a denomination, it can collapse easily whenever that source becomes unworthy of your trust.

Then Paul goes on to describe who hopeless a case he was before he got saved. His story was nothing but a trophy of God’s grace, a living evidence for a God who is better at loving and saving than we are at sinning. Paul didn’t intend to be saved. Just like Mr. Thorpe didn’t plan on it either, but was saved by accident during his own sermon. He and his fellow atheist friends formed a club called the Hell Fire Society where they would make fun of the better-known preachers of the Great Awakening in the 18th century. When it was Mr. Thorpe’s turn, he picked the evangelism George Whitefield to mock. As he took the podium, he opened a huge Bible and started to preach in Whitefield’s style. It all started out as a joke but the Holy Spirit got a hold of him as he spoke, so strongly that he came to faith during the sermon and by the end he was calling his friends earnestly to repentance. He went on to become a mighty preacher. He knew, Paul knew, but do you know, that your conversion is primarily not a result of your devotion but points to a God who delights in saving the hopeless cases?

Then Paul closes by recalling that as he got saved he didn’t ask for permission or affirmation from anyone but started to do what God called him to do. I like to wonder if those first churches had ever been planted and 13 books of the New Testament had ever been written if Paul relied on men’s opinion to get going. We shouldn’t depend on the opinions of others. Why? Plainly because people are often wrong. Bell was convinced for years about the possibility of transmitting human voice through electric cable before – in spite of being considered a mad man by his family – he finally succeeded. When he succeeded in building the first phone, and offered the patent to Western Union they declined with these words: “The phone is just an electronic toy, with no commercial potential. When Henry Ford planned to start mass-producing the T-Model and was looking for investors, a banker had these words to say to a potential investor: “The automobile is just a fad. The horse is here to stay.” So as I said, people are often wrong. And to the degree you rely on affirmation from people, you limit God in using you.

So what do we do with other’s opinions? In closing I’d like to formulate some practical advice concerning the matter. First, we have to learn how to separate God’s opinion from people’s opinion. And we should never get our worth or motivation from what people think of us but always from what God thinks of us. You may not know or believe, but he’s the one that knows you best and still believes in you the most. He’s your greatest supporter. And as for the opinions of people I suggest you divide them to two categories. You should listen to the feedback of those that love you and look at you with the eyes of faith. But we have to learn how to not care at all about the opinions of those that drag us down and bring a legalistic voice. We have to shake those off – as Taylor Swift suggests – because they’re just taking our energy.

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