Brothers, I entreat you, become as I am, for I also have become as you are. You did me no wrong. You know it was because of a bodily ailment that I preached the gospel to you at first, and though my condition was a trial to you, you did not scorn or despise me, but received me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus. What then has become of the blessing you felt? For I testify to you that, if possible, you would have gouged out your eyes and given them to me. Have I then become your enemy by telling you the truth? 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.
~ Galatians 4:12-20
Pastor Paul now reaches out the to Galatian believers based on their knowledge of him. He lived with them for quite some time and they all got to know him personally. As a result, they know from personal hands-on experience in living and working with him, the kind of man that he is. Paul speaks simply and clearly, “become as I am.” They know that he, though born and raised as a Jew, and as someone who lived under the strictest of the Jewish sects, now lives a life free from the boundaries present in the Mosaic law. Paul also makes an interesting claim here – that it was “because of a bodily ailment” that he had preached the gospel to them. There is much speculation as to what this entails, but it is fair to say that he had some sort of impairment that kept him from continuing on and, as a result, he took that opportunity to preach the gospel to them. It also seems as though they had to endure with him in this ailment but at the time none of them took that as a reason to mock him or belittle him and instead they received him as a man who loved them and wanted to preach the good news of Jesus Christ with them.
So, Paul asks, what happened since then? The people in the churches he planted there loved him very much, why do they suddenly turn against him? The Jewish officials who came through after Paul left told them that he had been lying to them or not telling them the whole truth, insisting that they had to follow the Mosaic laws and follow a modified form of Judaism. Paul, however, firmly defends his position and asks them if, by telling them the truth about God and the good news of Jesus Christ that he has become their enemy. These Jews, seeking their own glory in their pride, desire to create for themselves a group of people to follow their sect, to the exclusion of everyone else. Paul then explains to them that, while it’s good to be solely focused on a specific task or thing, that’s a good thing to seek but only when it’s done for a good purpose. In this case, he argues, they are not doing so and are instead sinning.
Paul finishes this section by asking them to consider their position. He loves them very much and is obviously in anguish over his tone with them. He’d like to break past this and to see them grow in the Lord but, as a result of the confusion that was brought in by these intruders, they are unable to get past this and he fears that he may need to come back and start his work all over again. This is the heart of a pastor who loves his church – Paul wants nothing more than to see Christ glorified through these people who he has labored over in love.