There are many ways of causing trouble, but ultimately they all lead to one thing – upset and hurt.
Paul is writing to the Galatians. No sooner had they heard about Jesus and begun to follow him, than arguments were breaking out about what was and wasn’t a necessary part of the Christian life and faith.
1 1-2 From the apostle Paul and from all the Lord’s followers with me.
I was chosen to be an apostle by Jesus Christ and by God the Father, who raised him from death. No mere human chose or appointed me to this work.
To the churches in Galatia.
3 I pray that God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ will be kind to you and will bless you with peace! 4 Christ obeyed God our Father and gave himself as a sacrifice for our sins to rescue us from this evil world. 5 God will be given glory forever and ever. Amen.
The Only True Message
6 I am shocked that you have so quickly turned from God, who chose you because of his wonderful kindness.You have believed another message, 7 when there is really only one true message. But some people are causing you trouble and want to make you turn away from the good news about Christ. 8 I pray that God will punish anyone who preaches anything different from our message to you! It doesn’t matter if that person is one of us or an angel from heaven. 9 I have said it before, and I will say it again. I hope God will punish anyone who preaches anything different from what you have already believed.
10 I am not trying to please people. I want to please God. Do you think I am trying to please people? If I were doing that, I would not be a servant of Christ.
How Paul Became an Apostle
11 My friends, I want you to know that no one made up the message I preach. 12 It wasn’t given or taught to me by some mere human. My message came directly from Jesus Christ when he appeared to me.
Some were causing trouble. Insisting there were “add-ons” to the gospel they had heard and received, altering what they thought they knew, trying to take them to a different place.
Now there is nothing wrong with healthy debate about what faith means and how it is lived out. That is often how we learn and grow. The problem comes when people start insisting on certain things, that are not core gospel principles, trying to force others to see and follow their point of view. Of course there will always be matters of opinion on what constitutes the core gospel principles, but when Jesus was asked what was most important part of living God’s way, his reply was
36 “Teacher, what is the most important commandment in the Law?”
37 Jesus answered:
Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind. 38 This is the first and most important commandment. 39 The second most important commandment is like this one. And it is, “Love others as much as you love yourself.” 40 All the Law of Moses and the Books of the Prophets are based on these two commandments. (Matthew 22:36-40)
Surely the basis of loving others is not causing trouble for them. There is right and proper challenge, but there is also love and nurture. And some things are more important than what I think.
In Romans, Paul says something very important,
The weak and the strong
14 Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarrelling over disputable matters (Romans 14)
i.e., don’t cause trouble for others in their faith.
And so, I have to ask myself, are there things that I do or say that cause trouble for others? Ways I behave? Bold pronouncements that make? Judgements that are harsh, unfair or ill-informed? Do I say things that would better be left unsaid? Or not say things that I should?
Forgive me Lord
the times that I have said and done
words and deeds
that have hurt
and caused others to struggle
or even turned them away from you.
May I always remember love
– your love
and to everyone.
may my actions
point people to you,
not turn them from you