I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.
Paul’s conversion was unique, to say the least. He really got to see both sides of the spiritual spectrum. Before his conversion, he was as unchristian as the come. He actually persecuted Christians for their faith, and we cannot know how much blood was on his hands. I would wager that anyone who knew Paul personally before his conversion and then also afterward would have had a hard time believing the change. Yet, one thing that remained constant with Paul was his commitment to his faith. His persecution of Christians was due to his Jewish fervency. Then, as a follower of Christ, he was no less fervent. It is easy to understand his shock at learning that the Galatian church was losing ground without him there.
No matter the discipline, teachers have a desire for their students to learn and to change. Teachers strive for growth in their students. When the subject matter is Christianity, the stakes are much higher. Those of us who teach biblical knowledge and wisdom know how critical it is. This is literally a matter of life and death. Someone in Paul’s position of helping lead a flock wants to see the group grow in godliness over time. However, Paul’s physical absence would result in their taking a liking for a different gospel. He could have responded by leaving Galatia alone and focusing his efforts where he saw growth. Instead, he pleaded with them to correct their beliefs and their ways.
Whether we are discipling one or leading many, we must be prepared for times like this. We cannot be so naive as to think that an upward trajectory is all that lies ahead. Those who are responsible for teaching the truth to others must have patience and yet be firm. Faith is serious business, and lives are on the line. We must remember that there are forces trying to distract all of us and lead us astray. When discipleship becomes difficult and those we lead start going in a different direction, we must lovingly yet firmly steer them back to the truth. They are worth the work. Father, give us the patience and compassion to disciple others correctly and to persist in bringing them back to the truth.