Pull up a chair. Sit and listen to the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Galatians:
All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I had been eager to do all along. Galatians 2:10
The impact of this single verse fails to convey the powerful punch with which it was intended to deliver. The verse comes in the middle of Paul’s appeal to others to understand his approach to spreading the Gospel. He wasn’t trying to justify his actions; instead, he was trying to show that though his methods were different, they were consistent with James, Cephas (Peter), and John.
Paul and Barnabas continued to spread the Gospel in Gentile nations to the uncircumcised, using tactics that made sense in their context. From the beginning of chapter 2, we get the idea that a lot of time has transpired since Paul began his ministry. The beginning phrase, “Then after fourteen years…” helps me gain some perspective. Hear this, my friends, if Paul was willing to work for 14 years before checking in with “headquarters,” we need to be patient when our efforts take more than a year or two (or ten).
Verse 2 gives us some fascinating insight. Note: “them” in this case are people who are in key leadership positions in the church.
I presented to them the gospel that I preach among the Gentiles. I wanted to be sure I was not running and had not been running my race in vain. Galatians 2:2
Don’t you want to be sure you’re not running your race in vain?
I recognize the letter, and this chapter, in particular, is more concerned with issues that have arisen in the early church, but what I find amazing is Paul includes verse 10 as the closing statement in his paragraph that summarized his evangelistic missionary approach. Essentially, do whatever it takes to spread the amazing, great news about Jesus, but don’t forget to look after the poor.
Why tag on this request? Did Paul need a reminder? Do we need a reminder?
For those of us that have been around the church for a long time, the simple answer is yes. I added this quote from Tim Keller’s sermon (now on the index page for this series):
If you think you have a relationship with [God] and you don’t have a relationship with the poor and the oppressed, you’re mistaken. If you don’t have a relationship with the poor and the oppressed, you don’t really have a relationship with me.1
Paul had to appeal to “those who were held in high esteem” in his day. Tim Keller continues to preach this message in our modern-day and age. Yes, we need a reminder.
Whatever role we are blessed to play in church, business, non-profit, etc., we must never forget the requirement to be attentive to the poor.
Remembering the poor is just the beginning. This is not a box to check or a mandate to fulfill. Keller’s words are carefully chosen to capture the key idea: we are to seek relationships with those who would otherwise be forgotten by society. The concept is simple, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to apply.
I find it fascinating that Paul, in all his greatness, has always been eager to serve the poor. How do we convey this message to others? Perhaps we just need to continue providing safe places for people to get to know the poor, the oppressed, the marginalized. Most important, we must not let people forget.
Lord, help us to seek out relationships with all people, regardless of status or lack of status.
1See Tim Keller’s sermon, Doing Justice and Mercy, starting at 8:57