Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age. – Galatians 1:3-4
Not to long ago I arrived at the office ready to attack the day. On the drive over I had been thinking about all the things I needed to accomplish before the day’s end. In order to complete them, I needed the help of our office administrator. Once I reached the office and settled in, I headed directly to her office. Busting through the door, I sat down on her couch and started explaining all that I needed to get done and where I needed her help. She patiently listened for a few minutes waiting for a break in my stream of words and then said, “Good morning!? How are you today?”
Even though we often go through the motions with greeting our friends and colleagues-–
“Hey. How you are you?”
“‘I’m good. You?”
“Good.” -– greetings are important. They help to personalize our interactions and make meaningful connections. When we have a lot on our minds, a lot to do, or an important message to deliver, we can easily overlook the importance of a simple greeting.
Paul has an incredibly important message to deliver to the church in Galatia. This letter is one of his most intense and impassioned letters. He will eventually say some really strong things. But before he gets there, he begins with a greeting.
The beauty of Paul’s greetings, in this letter and almost all of his other letters, is that he doesn’t go through the motions. He’s intentional about using his greeting to remind the recipients about the nature of God and the gospel he preaches. The letter to the Galatians church is no different. In his greeting, Paul reminds the church that the God we serve is a God who gives. And specifically, a God who not only gives stuff, but a God who gives himself.
Sometimes giving yourself is harder than giving stuff. Walking past a homeless man on the street, it’s much easier to give him money and be on your way than to stop, ask him his name, and offer to take him for lunch. When a neighbor asks to borrow a rake to clean up his yard, it’s effortless to hand one over than grab your spare and help him finish the job twice as fast. When a friend is in the hospital, it’s easier to send a card or a meal than stop by and sit for a visit.
Giving stuff can be inconvenient, but it’s a lot less costly than giving yourself. Giving yourself is a more vulnerable act than giving stuff. It puts you in a position where you are required to open yourself up to others. Giving stuff keeps you at a safe distance. It allows you to remain in control. Giving yourself means stepping into potentially awkward and uncomfortable situations. It means stepping into uncertainty. When you give yourself, you may find that you have to take on some of the pain in someone else’s life. Giving yourself means you sit in the discomfort with them. Needless to say, giving stuff is much safer.
However, giving yourself has greater potential to make you more like Christ. When it came to redeeming the world Jesus didn’t write a check or send a five step do-it-yourself how-to-guide, He gave himself. He walked among us and spent time with people who were lonely and rejected, people everyone else turned away. He stepped into a world that’s overcome with brokenness and pain. He opened Himself up to all of it knowing it could be risky and costly. In the end, He shouldered it all and it got Him killed.
Even though the cost of giving yourself is incredibly high, it comes with a great reward. Those who give themselves to others have the privilege of being active agents in God’s redemption of the world. Which means they have access to more of God’s power and presence in their lives. It’s the paradox of giving. When a person gives them self, they actually receive more in the end, more of God.
Next time you’re tempted to meet a need by writing a check or sending a meal, still do it. But also remember Jesus, the one who has infinite resources, yet for our sake, didn’t stay far off and removed, but gave himself so that we might give ourselves to others.
1. In what situations are you hesitant to give yourself?
2. Can you think of a time when someone else gave them self to you? How did it make you feel?
3. Ask God to give you the courage to give yourself to those in need today.