“I like men whose vision carries them far beyond their own horizons.”

Kenneth Strachan

TODAY’S READING: Galatians 4–6

As a new resident of Saudi Arabia, I take great delight in Paul pointing out that Mt. Sinai was in Arabia. What beautiful irony that Moses was restored and called in Saudi Arabia (Midian), that the law the Jews revere was revealed here, that Paul whom the ages emulate was renewed here, that Elijah heard God’s voice here.[1] And if it took Elijah forty days and nights to get here and while Jesus took a forty-day trip into the wilderness, I can’t but wonder if Immanuel walked on down to Arabia and possibly leveled the devil with scripture on the same mount where He laid down the law.

Paul’s missionary letter first established that every people has the Spirit freedom to follow Jesus in culturally submitted ways and assures us that some redeemed cultural variation will exist across the body of Christ. Paul began by insisting that it is beautiful to have many applications of biblical culture, and he ended his missionary letter by insisting we can’t make diversity the goal or the idol, “for in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love” (Gal. 5:6). First, Paul smacks us all for not allowing the other to be different, then he smacks us again for making different the goal: “God forbid,” he wrote, “that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (6:14), and then again to his point, “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation” (v. 15).

If we are boasting in our blackness, we are insulting the cross. If we are arrogant in our whiteness, we are insulting the Christ. If we are internally critical of Arabs, Asian, Americans, Africans, or whoever is different than us, we are insulting the Father of all. As strong as Paul rebuked Peter publicly for not allowing cultural differences, so he rebukes us all through the Spirit for allowing them. The cross sees no color and admits no prejudice, all blood flows red and all pride must be nailed to the tree. Sandwiched in between Paul’s two statements that cultural differences avail nothing (5:6 and 6:15) is his list of the fruits of the Spirit. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control are missionary indicators, guidelines for us in cultural interaction. I venture to suggest these Spirit fruits are most sweet when they eaten cross culturally.

In missionary application, Paul warns us that God cannot be mocked, thus we will always reap what we sow. Again, Galatians is a missionary letter written by a missionary to emphasize that all peoples must bow to biblical culture, that all peoples must be born of the Spirit by faith, that there is beauty in all peoples when we share the fruit of the Spirit cross culturally and ugliness when our boast is centered on our culture more than our crucified Christ. If gospel advance marches forward with divisive missionaries leading the way, we will plant divisive churches. But if we do not grow weary in dying to self and culture, we shall reap a unified church if we do not lose heart.

[1] Mt. Horeb is another name for Mt. Sinai.

Prayer Focus: Saudi Arabia

Today’s Unreached People Group: Punjabi
Population: 811,000
Language: Punjabi, Eastern
Primary Religion: Islam
Evangelical: 0.0%
Estimated Workers Needed: 16

[Source: Joshua Project]

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