One of my all-time favorite movie titles is “LOST IN TRANSLATION” written and directed by Sofia Coppola and starring Bill Murray and Scarlet Johannson. This title — and the film — say so much about communicating meaning from one language to another. Take Paul’s statement here in his letter to the Galatians:
“[Forsooth, brethren, ye be called into liberty only; give ye not liberty into occasion of flesh], but by charity of [the] Spirit serve ye together.”
The Wycliffe translation — as it often does — provides two different meanings of the same verse. The big difference is the location of the word “only.” In one version, “only” is placed after the semi-colon; in the one I’ve chosen to quote, the “only” is placed before the semi-colon, indicating that Christians are called to freedom only. We are not called to any sort of bondage! We are not in bondage to the law, nor are we to be in bondage to “the flesh.” Rather, we are called to liberty in Christ. In this freedom, we are called to “serve together” “by charity of the Spirit” according to Paul.
Look at the King James Version of the same verse:
“For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.”
Here the “only” is placed after the semi-colon, rendering it as emphasis not to use freedom “for an occasion to the flesh.” Additionally, the Spirit is missing completely from Paul’s statement. Rather than the power of God, love is emphasized. And instead of serving together, we are called to serve one another.
No wonder we sometimes get a little lost; a little defensive of our views; a little wary of a different viewpoint. Yet, God calls us to unity. He also calls us to love. And, He calls us to freedom.
“Now I urge you, brothers, in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree in what you say, that there be no divisions among you, and that you be united with the same understanding and the same conviction.”
Obviously Paul is aware of differences of opinions among Christians; after all, he himself disagrees with Peter and does so openly in regards to following Jewish customs such as requiring circumcision and avoiding certain foods and celebrating special days and so on. The unity Paul urges Christians to have is a fundamental coming together under the headship of Christ. We are to have in common “the same understanding and the same conviction” when it comes to the Lord and our relationship with Him.
Unfortunately since Jesus ascended into heaven, divisions continue to blossom like yellow weeds and then to spread like dead dandelions, splitting out into and carried by the wind.
The organized church is decadent and dysfunctional.
But what of the Church? What of the Body of Christ? Is the Church divided? What are the basic tenets of Christianity? And, do Christians — i.e. the Church — see eye to eye on these tenets? If so, then what are we fighting over? And, why? If not, then why not? Why is the Church incapable of having a common understanding and the same conviction regarding the Lord?
At Mepkin Abbey in Moncks Corner, South Carolina this weekend, I notice — as I always do when I am there in the guest dining room — the iconic painting of Jesus Christ. Jesus’ eyes are not symmetrical — His right eye looks more and less at you while His left eye looks off into a distance you can’t imagine. A single tear appears to be falling from this eye onto His cheek.
A young man across from me mentions Jesus’ “wonky eye” and speaks briefly of how strange it looks. He’s right. Jesus’ left eye can most definitely be described as “wonky.” I laugh, but later as I stare at Jesus’ face, I think: “How odd. Jesus looks at me with His right eye which appears accepting of me while He looks away from me with His left eye as if He can not look at me. He’s calm…
“Rejoice always! Pray constantly. Give thanks in everything, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
God tells us to “give thanks in everything.” Sometimes this seems impossible! But note : God doesn’t say give thanks for everything; instead He commands us to be grateful in everything! You may not rejoice that you are unemployed or unhealthy, but you can give thanks while you are without a job or in poor health. Your attitude makes the difference between defeat and victory in Christ!
The main idea is that God wills you to rejoice always in Christ, who is your ultimate circumstance! As you live in Him, gratitude naturally flows from your heart. Be victorious because He is your victory!
What makes an “urgent request” powerful? James says that righteousness makes our prayers effective, i.e. “very powerful.” And what does James define as “righteousness?” He says that righteousness is the direct result of healing. How does James say we are healed? He says that healing comes from confession of sins.
“Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The urgent request of a righteous person is very powerful in its effect.”
Simply put, don’t go before God the Father in prayer without first confessing your sins. With confession comes His healing, and with His healing comes righteousness, and with righteousness comes power.
“Rejoice in hope; be patient in affliction; be persistent in prayer.”
Paul doesn’t say “rejoice in affliction.” He doesn’t expect himself or others to revel in misery. Rather he calls us to “rejoice in hope,” in the hope of our salvation primarily but even in our walk with God. He says to us, ‘yes, you have pain here’ but you must be patient as you tread through it, and “be persistent in prayer.”
Prayer is one expression of hope. As we pray, we anticipate a positive answer — and even if the answer is negative, we long for God’s listening ear and the quieting of His voice: “Be still, and know that I Am God.”
If we turn to the left, He whispers. If we turn to the right, He may shout. At least we know He is always with us, “even to the ends of the earth.”