Dear Friends

Curious about Dear Friends: The Letters of St. Paul to Christians in America ?  Here’s an example: Paul wrote first to Christians in Galatia; in Dear Friends, he writes a similar letter to Christians in Texas.  Here are some excerpts to illustrate how this works.  First from Galatians:

Galatians 1:1 Paul an apostle — sent neither by human commission nor from human authorities, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead — 2 and all the members of God’s family1 who are with me, To the churches of Galatia: 3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, 4 who gave himself for our sins to set us free from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, 5 to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen. 6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel — 7 not that there is another gospel, but there are some who are confusing you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel1 from heaven should proclaim to you a gospel contrary to what we proclaimed to you, let that one be accursed! 9 As we have said before, so now I repeat, if anyone proclaims to you a gospel contrary to what you received, let that one be accursed! . . .
3:1 You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly exhibited as crucified! 2 The only thing I want to learn from you is this: Did you receive the Spirit by doing the works of the law or by believing what you heard? 3 Are you so foolish? Having started with the Spirit, are you now ending with the flesh? 4 Did you experience so much for nothing? — if it really was for nothing.

That’s what Paul wrote to the Galatians.                DearFriends
Here’s what Paul might write to Texans today:

Dear Friends in Texas,
I write to you as an apostle with no commission from human authorities but rather from Jesus Christ, who was raised from death by God the Father.  I write to you on behalf of the members of God’s family who are with me.  Together we salute you and pray that grace and peace may be yours from God our Father and Jesus Christ, our risen Lord, who died to set us free from the evils of this wicked age and open to us a way of life and peace and true freedom.

I find it hard to believe that you have turned away so quickly from the gospel I proclaimed to you and are following a different gospel.  Of course there is no other gospel, but I think you have been confused by some who have their own agenda.  Whoever they are, I condemn them.  Even if an angel from heaven brings you a gospel other than the gospel I preach, let that one be condemned.  I said it before and I will say it again: if someone teaches a gospel different from the gospel I teach, let that one be condemned! . . .

2   Let me give you some examples of what I mean.  Throughout your churches you proclaim rightly enough the saving death of Jesus on the cross and you rejoice in being set free from your sins by the blood of Christ.  That is good, but then you turn back to the law to condemn others and to enforce patterns of behavior for others saying that their lives must be ruled by law.  I am told that you condemn those who live in faithful relationships though many of you have failed to be faithful in your own relationships and have been glad to receive forgiveness and be offered a new beginning.  But if you have failed to be faithful yourselves how can you condemn those who are faithful?  Why should the law you have broken apply to others if you cannot keep it yourselves?

Are you not also returning to the bondage of law when you deny all access to medical help for those who cannot face the difficulties of childbirth?  I myself condemn all those who would prevent life from emerging or restrict the lives of children or shorten the lives of the sick and dying or end any life prematurely.  God is the Lord of life and sent the Son to open the way of life.  I repeat, God is the Lord of life and we have been given no authority to act on God’s behalf to determine when life should begin or end.  But when did Jesus ever erect a law by which we might judge others?  “Do not judge, so that you may not be judged,” was his teaching, yet you judge others and condemn those who disagree with you.  I wish all abortion clinics could be closed this very day, but I cannot force my opinion on others whose circumstances and motives are unknown to me.  I pray for them but I will not turn to the law to compel them against their will.

And how, if you value life, can you as followers of Jesus Christ use the law to bring death to those who have taken the lives of others?  Did not Jesus, dying under the law, forgive his murderers and open heaven to his fellow sufferer?  Can you truly imagine that Jesus would condemn anyone to death? . . .

3  You foolish Texans!  Who has bewitched you?  Tell me this: when you received the gospel did you become Christians by obedience to the law?  Of course you learned the law but that was to your condemnation.  You held up the law to see your failure and found nothing in it to enable you to escape the penalty.  When the law comes, we die, but when grace comes we are set free from the law to live in Christ . . .

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