When my oldest son, Jonah, was still a baby, just nine or ten months old, I decided to shave off my beard. Now, I realized that he might have a reaction to my bare face, since my fuzzy visage was all he’d ever known, but I wasn’t prepared for just how pronounced his reaction was. For hours after the reveal, whenever I tried to hold him or even come near, he’d cry uncontrollably and push me away. I was a stranger. I couldn’t be his dad, not with those pitiful, hairless cheeks.
Eventually, Jonah and I worked it out. He stopped crying long enough to hear my voice clearly, and slowly but surely he came to recognize me as the man who tossed him in the air with reckless precision, who fed him his bottle before bedtime, and who tucked him in every night with his special song. (For the record, I have grown my beard back in full, and if I even hint that I might someday shave it again, Jonah counters, “But then I won’t know you, Daddy!”)
At the end of Galatians, Paul does something to make sure the Galatians can “recognize” him. He stops dictating the letter to his scribe and picks up the stylus himself: “Look at what large letters I use as I write to you in my own handwriting” (Galatians 6:11). In other words, “It’s really me here on the other end of this conversation. It’s Paul! Your friend!” Paul’s personal relationship with the Christians in Galatia went deeper than any logical or biblical argument he could make to steer them away from the false teaching that threatened to rob them of the true gospel and steal their joy. So, his final appeal is to tell his friends about his scars.
“I bear on my body the marks of Jesus” (Galatians 6:17). Paul had been persecuted just about everywhere he went—imprisoned, beaten, and left for dead more than once. He could have saved himself a world of hurt, at least from the Jews who opposed him, if he would have just advocated for circumcision in his calls to repentance. But that would be changing the gospel of grace into a gospel of works. He believed so strongly that Jesus, and Jesus alone, was enough that he could not compromise, not for all the comforts in the world.
Do you believe Jesus is enough? Or have you believed the lie that there’s something you must do to earn eternal life with God? The gospel is the most precious and priceless message that’s ever been shared. Paul stands in good company with all those, down through the centuries, who have suffered for a gospel that can seem just too good to be true. Thank Jesus today for the gospel of grace. And may we pray for one another with these final words of Paul here in Galatians: “Brothers and sisters, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen” (Galatians 6:18).
Written by John Greco