From now on, let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.
Many of the jobs I’ve had throughout my career required me to do research. One of my favorites was Senior Director of Research and Development for the insurance industry.
This position gave me the responsibility and opportunity to be on the cutting edge of technology so that I could write and speak about it and how it would impact insurance. I had to figure out how insurance companies and agency across the country could leverage the technology to increase sales, improve service and reduce costs.
For example, I remember reading about an exciting new concept where people would be able to share information directly with anyone else in the world. This would level the information playing field by eliminating any governmental or business central control. It was the birth of the internet.
And one of the cautions brought up about the internet was making sure that truth was shared. The idea went something like this: since everyone could connect with anyone, what’s to stop them from broadcasting painful lies and rumors? How would you ensure that only truth and freedom were spread around the world?
You see, when you give people unlimited access and information, you unleash a potentially powerful problem. Who’s responsible and accountable for information shared by an uncontrolled individual?
In the pre-internet days, when information was shared on paper, you had people called editors. Their job was to read over everything, checking grammar and facts.
Why was this extra, time and money-consuming step added? Because typesetting and printing were expensive. And once something was printed and sent out, you couldn’t un-print it. You couldn’t recall it. It was out there for all the world to see.
But with the internet, there are no editors. There’s no one to stop any wingnut with a cell phone from saying anything and blasting it around the world. There’s no one to stop them or their fake news from infiltrating our minds. Our feelings. Our decisions. Do we need editors to stop fake news today? In a word, you-bet-cha.
That’s exactly what Paul’s doing, trying to stop fake news. He’s commanding anyone and everyone here. He’s pulling out his big stick, his authority as an Apostle. He’s pulling out all the stops because this is a really very serious time in his life and that of the church in Galatia.
His order, his command is really very strong. He’s making no bones about it. It can’t be misinterpreted. It’s not only clear, but it’s crystal clear. We are to be presently and actively not causing him trouble.
Why does he need to say this? Because lots of people were causing him lots of trouble. They were starting all sorts of lies about him. About his past. About his teaching. About his friends. About his life.
And in order to stop all the fake news about him, he reminds them about the physical scars on his body. And where did these scars come from? Who was responsible for them? They came from the same kind of people that were bothering the Galatians now.
You see, the people who spread fake news aren’t interested at all in the truth. They don’t care who they hurt. There’s nothing they won’t do to get people on their side. There isn’t anything they won’t say to get more “likes” on social media.
The reason Paul can say this is because they can see the scars that they put on him. Anyone and everyone could see the scars on his body. And scars don’t lie. You can’t just deny that they don’t exist. They are proof positive and back up what he’s saying.
The reason that Paul was attacked is because he was sharing God’s truth about full and free forgiveness in Jesus. This would bring people to a deeply personal and completely transparent relationship with God. And they wouldn’t need any laws, rules, or the traditional leaders of the past anymore.
Paul was upsetting the apple cart big time. He was telling and living God’s true message, and that’s what caused the scars. The message is that God’s calling us to himself by his grace through faith. And this completely changes and makes everything new.
It may come as a complete shock, but there are still people out there today who are not interested in the truth at all. They’re only interested in stirring up a crowd and getting the number of internet followers up. Getting more and more likes. More shares.
The challenge to us is what are we saying about God today? Through our lives? Are we pointing people to him through Jesus with our words, thoughts, actions, and attitudes?
If the answer is yes, then we’d better be ready. Ready to be attacked. Attacked by the enemy. Attacked by people. Attacked by fake news. It shouldn’t come as a surprise because Jesus predicted it.
I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.
So, when the fake news comes, will we run away and hide? Or will we run to Jesus? Paul ran to Jesus. We can run to Jesus too. What’s stopping us?