Summary: If we want to be free from the pressure to perform, we cannot seek to impress others with ourselves. Instead, we must be impressed only with what Christ did for us on the cross.
Freedom’s Cross (Galatians 6:11-18)
Once upon a time an old man and his son were on their way to market. The old man was leading a donkey and the boy was walking behind when they went through the first village. There, the people called the old man a fool for not riding the donkey. So he climbed up on the animal’s back.
In the second village, the people said the old man was cruel to let the child walk while he enjoyed the ride. So the old man got off and put the boy on the donkey.
In the third village, the people accused the boy of being lazy for making the old man walk. So the man got on the donkey with the boy.
In the fourth village, the people felt sorry for the donkey, because he was made to carry two people. So when the old man and his son arrived at the market, the old man was seen carrying the donkey.
Some people feel a need to impress others, but all they end up doing is carry a heavy burden.
My friends, We can be free from the need to impress. We can be free from the pressure to perform. We can be free from worrying about what others think.
You say, Phil, How? I want people to like me. I want people to respect me. How can I free myself from the burden of trying to impress at least some of the people in my life?
Galatians 6:11 See what large letters I use as I write to you with my own hand! (NIV)
The Apostle Paul usually dictated his letters to a secretary. Then, at the end of the letter, he would take the pen in his own hand and write a closing comment (1 Corinthians 16:21; Colossians 4:18; 2 Thessalonians 3:17). Usually it was a short comment – a verse or two – but here his closing comment is quite long – eight verses! Paul feels very strongly about what he is writing here. This is not just a mere formality tacked on at the end of a letter. This is important stuff! And just so we don’t miss it, Paul says, “See what large letters I use.” Today, we would put it in bold print and double underline it. Well, Paul, what’s so important that you write this stuff in your own hand with such LARGE LETTERS?
Galatians 6:12 Those who want to make a good impression outwardly are trying to compel you to be circumcised. The only reason they do this is to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ.
You see, the cross was a cruel thing and terribly offensive, especially in polite company. In Jesus’ day, crosses were reserved for the worst of criminals, the scum of society. It was a horrible instrument of torture and death, so horrible that Roman citizens, by law, could not be hung on them – only “the Barbarians.”
So when Christians began to proclaim that Christ had to die on a cross for our sins, many people were offended. “What do you mean MY sin demands the penalty of the cross? I’m not that bad. How dare you suggest that I deserve crucifixion and that Christ had to pay that kind of penalty for my sin?”
That’s the kind of reaction many people had to the preaching of the cross. The cross was very offensive, and because of it, many Christians found themselves hanging on them.
A pastor was giving the grand tour of his new church building to another pastor. With pride, he pointed out the rich, imported pews and luxurious decorations.
As they stepped outside, darkness was falling, and a spotlight shone on a huge cross on top of the steeple. “That cross cost us $10,000,” the pastor said with a satisfied smile.
“You got cheated,” said the other pastor. “Times were when Christians could get them for free.” (Clarence Jordan)
Today, crosses are ornate objects used for decorations. But in Jesus day, people didn’t even want to think about them, because they were cruel instruments of torture.
On the other hand, circumcision was a cool thing in polite society. If you were a man, circumcision meant that you belonged to the right group. If you were uncircumcised, you were considered an outsider, so some of the church leaders began to compel men to be circumcised.
They didn’t want to be offensive. Instead, they wanted to be accepted by the “right people,” so they stopped preaching the cross, and they started preaching circumcision.
They were trying to avoid persecution, but that put them in bondage to the need to impress. That put them in bondage to worrying about what other people think. That put them in bondage to the pressure to perform.