Galatians 4:17–20 (ESV)
They make much of you, but for no good purpose. They want to shut you out, that you may make much of them. It is always good to be made much of for a good purpose, and not only when I am present with you, my little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you! I wish I could be present with you now and change my tone, for I am perplexed about you.
The root Greek word that’s translated as “make much of” (ζηλόω, zay-la-oh) means covet, desire, have deep concern for, be zealous for. That can be both good and bad.
Here it’s bad, and worse, the second sentence is a purpose construction. They zaylaoh you, but it’s just an act. They really want to shut you out. The Greek work for shut out (ἐκκλεῖσαι, ekk-lei-sai) just means exclude. They want to zaylaoh you [for the purpose] that you’ll zaylaoh them.
Paul goes on to say that zaylaoh is always good when it’s for a good purpose. That holds even when Paul can’t be there.
Then Paul piggybacks on the zaylaoh concept to wear his heart on his sleeve. He sees the Galatians as vulnerable newborns who have not had Christ fully formed in them yet. He even describes his heartache as the anguish of childbirth. That’s pretty over the top, so Paul says, “I wish I could be present with you now and change my tone, for I am perplexed about you.”
The word translated as perplexed (ἀποροῦμαι, apo-rou-mai) means uncertain, perplexed, worried. Paul’s apologizing for his fraught tone. He wishes he could be with these folks he loves so he could chat with them directly and figure out exactly what’s going on.
That should calm his nerves.
This passage implies something important to the modern practice of Christianity—it’s okay to worry about the spiritual battles. In fact, that can be a good thing, even the key to success.
“I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go.” — Abraham Lincoln
People all too often will say something like, “You just need to have more faith,” in response to someone’s anguish. Today’s passage shows how that advice can be way off. While everyone can always use more faith, Paul’s anguish here was appropriate, even righteous.
And there’s another takeaway from this passage. We’re supposed to be ready to suffer for Christ. When we think about how we might suffer, we might think of persecution or even torture. The kind of suffering described in this passage doesn’t often come to mind.
But it should. Laying your heart on the altar is one of the sacrifices Christians are called to make.
Anyone with unsaved children can tell you all about that.
These Monday—Friday DEEPs are written by Mike Slay. The Weekend DEEPs are written by Matt Richardson. To subscribe to all the DEEPs click here:
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. ESV stands for the English Standard Version. © Copyright 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved. NIV stands for The Holy Bible, New International Version®. © Copyright 1973 by International Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved. KJV stands for the King James Version.