Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Galatians Journal: Chapter 4, Verse 15

Galatians 4: 15 What has happened to all your joy? I can testify that, if you could have done so, you would have torn out your eyes and given them to me.

“What has happened to all your joy” The restraints and burdens of a legalistic worldview/lifestyle are a drudgery. There is no freedom. There is constant pressure, day to day, minute by minute, as one has to prove himself worthy of God. Life is one endless struggle “to obey.” It is not unlike the oppression of being under the rule of a totalitarian dictator – fear becomes our motivation, not love. The concept we’ve been emphasizing over and over again in this letter – that of a living RELATIONSHIP – is non existent. There is no living relationship – just rules that can’t possibly be obeyed, no matter how hard we try! (see Galatians 3: 10-14). And the real tragedy here is that the Galatians once had the “joy” – they had the freedom that only comes through Christ, they had a viable relationship with God – but had thrown it all away. Sadly, this also seems to include throwing away their relationship with Paul. How ironic! The legalistic approach to God not only robs us of joy, is not only a drudgery – it isolates us from God and the proper, healthy relationships we need. I think this is because the ultimate focus of legalism is on ourselves, rather than on God. Further, when we also factor in the concept that the Judiazing heresy had its roots in ethnic prejudice -- i.e. being Jewish was "better" then being Greek – we know that using such a philosophy and belief as the foundation for living cannot result in anything but hatefulness and bitterness. The “joy” is indeed gone – nonexistent.

“I can testify that” Paul is using legal terminology again, as he did throughout chapters 3 & 4. This emphasizes not only the truth of Paul’s message, but the sincerity in his argument.

“You would have torn out your eyes to and given them to me” Many interpreters of this passage see this statement as indicative of the kind of “illness” Paul is suffering from in this section of the letter. Was his “illness” some sort of oozing eye sore, or cataracts, or some other issue relating to his eyes? Considering Paul’s activity in the book of Acts, this scenario seems unlikely. While Paul complains in another part of scripture of a “thorn” in his flesh, his ability to write and communicate was not an issue (although Galatians 6:11 might be an indication that Paul’s vision was suffering!) But this sort of language was common in the ancient Greek world. Its hyperbole. In Greek culture, friendship was always associated with the concept of sacrifice (I suppose that’s really true in ALL cultures). This is a dramatic phrase indicating that the Galatians had been willing to give up that which was most precious to them for Paul’s benefit. Paul is simply reaffirming the deep bond he once had with the Galatians, and how this relationship, this deep love, was reciprocal. It’s like saying they would “go the extra mile” or would “cut off their right arm,” etc. (As a side note, the Greek word that is translated here as “torn out” is used in Mark 2:4 to describe the process that was used to tear open the roof of the house Jesus was in to lower the paralytic man in so Jesus could heal him. A rather graphic description! It is also indicative of the sincere dedication of one brother in Christ helping another).

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