It began shortly after we were married and I didn’t see it coming. It was one of those little quirks that I hadn’t noticed in her during our first love-blind months of dating. Cheryl, I realized, did it almost without thinking and it was as natural as breathing for her. And now that we were married I would have to accept it, deal with it, learn to live with it.
What truly unnerved me wasn’t so much her calming body language and pleasant eye contact but rather it was what she said. Her whole face would soften gently and then she would utter those words I knew I couldn’t escape:
‘Good for you.’
Yeah, I know … bizarre, right?
If I enjoy something or do something that is important to me, she is all, ‘Oh good for you, sweetheart’ or ‘That is so awesome, good for you.’ I’m still trying to figure it out but it seems that she is genuinely happy when things are good for me. Really, truly, heart-felt glad.
Isn’t that the best thing we can learn today? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could honestly, wholeheartedly learn to be happy for others? And tell them?
Repeat after me, ‘Good for you.’ And again, ‘Good for you.’ One more time, ‘Good for you.’
Now go and put it into practice.
When we read this piece of Paul’s letter to the Galatian church, we see him gladly framing their circumstances in new, positive ways. In Galatians 3:23-29* we see him saying:
‘Before the way of faith in Christ was available to us, we were placed under guard by the law. We were kept in protective custody, so to speak, until the way of faith was revealed.
‘Let me put it another way. The law was our guardian until Christ came; it protected us until we could be made right with God through faith. And now that the way of faith has come, we no longer need the law as our guardian.’
- the old, legalistic ways served a loving purpose but things are different now;
- we can live a deeper life that relies on a mutual, trusting relationship with God.
Paul is explaining that faith isn’t crusty, restrictive or uptight but understood properly, it is actually freeing. He’s saying that God is more gentle and concerned about us than we have been told.
Good for you.
Wait, there’s more.
‘For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes. There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. And now that you belong to Christ, you are the true children of Abraham. You are his heirs, and God’s promise to Abraham belongs to you.’
So you are children of God. Your faith unites you as family, through Jesus himself, in a mysterious way that is kind of like putting on new clothes. Wait, what?
Do you know that feeling of wearing nice clothing that you feel really good in? Clothes that are fashionable and that fit your funny shape perfectly? Clothes that make you feel confident, comfortable and are totally you? With those clothes we feel good about ourselves and our place in the world no matter where we are.
Good for you.
These are some totally counter cultural ideas in today’s progressive world, but imagine them in an ancient middle eastern culture. In this family of people with new clothes:
- we are actually children of God because of Jesus;
- there are no religious insiders or outsiders;
- no more distinctions because of your skin, your family, your work, your position;
- why, even the sexes are equal in this scheme Paul is unfolding for us.
Very different but very equal. Paul doesn’t name literally every possibility but we can assume he is making a sweeping statement about every person who takes on the new clothing of Christ. Even those we can’t imagine belong.
Each and every person is equal and amazing in this new way of things. Wearing Jesus entitles you to fit in, to exercise your natural talents, to feel good about who you are.
Good for you.
Paul radically re-orders the values in the culture of believers. As we read the story of the early church we can see assumptions of inequality disappearing as Jews and non-Jews alike enter the faith, slaves begin to be referred to as brothers (and sisters too I assume because…) women become significant leaders in the church.
We are all loved equally as God’s children. In fact we’re in the will – we receive a full inheritance like the rest of the family.
Here, let me say it to you personally:
‘Good for you.’
* New Living Translation