There is a challenge laid down to every Christian in the book of Galatians by the Apostle Paul. Galatians 4:12 states the following:
“I plead with you, brothers and sisters, become like me, for I became like you.”
You may have never given much thought to this verse. It is about the only one like it in the Bible, or at least the only one stated this way. There are several verses in the Bible which speak of “be ye Holy, for I Am Holy, saith the Lord”. That phrase is repeated several times in the Old Testament, especially in Leviticus. Peter repeats it a couple of times in his first epistle. The context there is obviously a call by the Lord Himself to be holy.
The verse written by Paul in Galatians is another one of many in our Bibles which can be interpreted in a rather legalistic manner. I remember hearing this verse in Sunday School as a kid and being told that Paul was a “Pharisee of the Pharisees”. Paul knew all of the laws of Moses and he lived them so Paul was telling us to be just like that. Well, I want to share with you that I do not believe that is what Paul is saying in Galatians.
First off, the very passage this is taken from in Galatians is from a two to three-chapter deep dive by Paul into the subject of legalism. Paul completely destroys the argument by those who were pushing legalism, obeying the law of Moses, as a method to prove your acceptance to God. Said another way, he was teaching that you cannot rely upon obeying rules and regulations for salvation. Paul repeats over and over that such an approach only leads to bondage. He says it literally will enslave you. A key theme of the book of Galatians is “I never set aside the grace of God”, ever.
Second, to rightly interpret this passage you have to look not only at the context just described but also look at what Paul says after he says “become like me”. Paul tells us, “for I became like you”. In Galatians 2, Paul gives us some autobiographical background. He explains that when he first came to that area, an area that included Antioch, Iconium, Lystra and Derbe, where Paul help start churches, that he never pushed legalistic laws and practices on them. He ate with them and lived with them despite their pagan ways. He met them where they were and shared the Good News with them. It was Paul’s way of saying he did what Jesus did by eating with sinners and tax collectors. In chapter 2, you find that Paul even admonished Peter to his face, for acting one way when he was with Paul but then switching to another mode when Jewish leaders came to town.
Galatians 4:13-14 provides more context describing how Paul had been very ill and how the Galatian people helped take care of him. Paul explains that he was so sick that he was a very real burden to them. He thanked them for taking care of him while he recovered.
When Paul says become or simply “be like me”, he is telling us that he met people where they were. He did not hold himself above others. He came alongside them and that enabled him to then share the Good News of Jesus Christ. Meeting them where they were in their lives allowed him to be heard as he shared his life story with them. He shared who he was before he came to know Christ and then how the Gospel of Jesus Christ literally “changed everything” in his life. This method was key in helping him share the greatest message that will ever be presented to the human ear and heart.
All of us have a story to tell. May God bless you as His Spirit leads you to share yours in your world, your sphere of influence, those places you work and with those whom you come into contact with. Listen to that gentle voice directing you and you will be amazed at how God uses you to help others. You may never see it or hear of the impact but there will be one.
Go and “Be Like Paul”. You can do it. It is key to your mission, a mission for all Christians. We have the only Good News that truly “changes everything!