Welcome to the STC Sheffield Daily Podcast. My name is Helen, and I’m going to be continuing our reflections on the book of Galatians, that my husband Alan started last week.
Our passage today is Galatians Chapter 2 vs6-10, and I’d like us to focus on verses 7 and 9:
“They recognised that I had been entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been to the circumcised……They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the circumcised.”
In the autumn our eldest son will be heading to university to study Forensic Psychology. He then wants to complete a Masters, and ultimately his aim is to work in prisons. Prior to him applying, we went to various universities and met several lecturers. My favourite was the one who looked straight across the table at Jacob and said, “You do know that what you want to do means you are mainly going to be working with sex offenders and paedophiles.”
I’m not going to lie; my secret hope was that he would say, “No, I hadn’t realised. I’m not sure I want to do it after all.”
Instead he replied, “Yes, I know that.”
On the train back home, I asked him a few questions……just to double check. He said that he believed that every person deserved the opportunity to change their life, and it was a place where he felt called to live out his Christian faith by showing forgiveness and love to all people.
I didn’t have any reply.
And now my job is to recognise that, despite my motherly reservations, this is where God is leading him, and I need to release him to pursue this call upon his life.
Recognise and release.
In Jerusalem, the pillars of the Christian church – the senior leaders – James, Peter and John were faced with a similar situation – were they going to recognise the call upon Paul’s life and release him to follow it?
Paul felt called by God to preach the Gospel to Gentiles. However, to law abiding Jews, Gentiles were to be avoided at all costs. Jews could not do business with Gentiles, could not go on a journey with a Gentile, could not sit down and eat a meal with Gentiles. Spending time with Gentiles was taboo. They were unclean.
A bit like spending time with sex offenders and paedophiles.
There was much questioning and opposition to what Paul was wanting to do; and at the time he was writing to the Galatians, the decision to allow him to do this really could have gone either way.
However, the leaders of the church recognised that reaching the Gentiles with the Good News of Jesus was a specific calling and task that had been given to Paul, and so they released him.
They didn’t try to add, change or alter what he was doing or preaching.
His presentation, his personality, his emphasis and his style was different, and not necessarily the way they would have done it, but they recognised that he was being called to speak to a different audience.
The leaders of the church knew he was preaching the same Gospel – and so they gave him the right hand of fellowship and released him to do it.
So, how can we apply this in our own contexts and situations?
Firstly, we need to make sure that as spouses, as parents, as employers, as team leaders – in whatever role or position we find ourselves – we do everything that we can to release people into their own specific tasks or calling; because this is the only way we will see someone’s full God given potential come into being.
The other reason this should be a key priority is because it is also the way we get to see and experience the fullness of what God has planned for our marriages, our family, our workplace and our team, as well as those whom we connect with outside of or beyond this.
We may have reservations as we release other people – I shared my own experience of this just a moment ago – but these should not become stumbling blocks that we place in their path.
Imagine if because of the fears or concerns of others, Paul had been banned from speaking to or going to the Gentiles with the message of Jesus?
Not only would the history of the early church look dramatically different, but we ourselves may have an entirely different experience of Christianity today. There may have been a branch for Jews and another version for Gentiles, rather than the truth of one Gospel, one Christianity for all.
I have just finished reading Michelle Obama’s autobiography called ‘Becoming.’ Whether it is Michelle allowing Barak to pursue his call to political leadership, or their desire as a couple to unlock the potential of young men and women from diverse social, economic and ethnic backgrounds; what comes across consistently, on virtually every page, is this constant desire to recognise and release.
Finishing this book, at the same time as I began reflecting on these verses from Galatians, made me realise that there is another R………..and that is Risk.
Barak and Michelle Obama risked so much to break down barriers and become the first African Americans to hold the position of President and First Lady of the United States. And they did this because they were aiming for something much bigger – the transformation of American politics.
James, Peter and John took a risk on Paul.
Paul risked his life to preach the Gospel.
And in doing so they got to experience something much bigger and much more exciting; as many Gentiles, from different regions and different countries, came to faith in Christ, and had their lives transformed.
Therefore, the second question to ask ourselves is: are we prepared to take a risk when it comes to recognising and releasing those around us?
Their presentation and style may be different to ours – are we able to risk an alternative approach, because we know that God has called them, rather than us, to reach a specific group of people?
They may not necessarily do things the way we would – are we prepared to risk our own levels of comfort and control because we see that God has given them this task or opportunity, and not us?
We are called to recognise the God given skills and abilities of every person, to release them to become the best possible version of who God made them to be, and to take risks in order to be part of God’s bigger, better plan for the transformation of our homes, our streets, our city and our nation.
Recognise, Release and Risk – which one of these is God speaking to you about today?
Heavenly Father, show us today who it is and where it is that you want us to recognise and release other people, and to take a risk, in order to see their God given potential fulfilled and your plan to transform lives come into being. Amen.
BIBLE READING: Galatians 2:6-10
As for those who were held in high esteem – whatever they were makes no difference to me; God does not show favouritism – they added nothing to my message. On the contrary, they recognised that I had been entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been to the circumcised. For God, who was at work in Peter as an apostle to the circumcised, was also at work in me as an apostle to the Gentiles. James, Cephas and John, those esteemed as pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognised the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the circumcised. All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I had been eager to do all along.