Jump Start # 2409
Galatians 4:14 “and that which was a trial to you in my bodily condition you did not despise or loathe, but you received me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus Himself.”
Received me like an angel. Other translations use the expression, ‘treated me as an angel.” I’m glad this is in our Bibles. So often when looking at the life of Paul it’s not a pretty picture. Beaten. Chased. Imprisoned. Threatened. Accused. One feels sorry for such a noble servant of Christ. Here, he was treated like an angel.
Something was not going well for Paul at this time. The previous verse tells us of “bodily illness.” Here, in our verse, it states, “my bodly condition you did not despise or loathe.” Sometimes when a person is not doing well, people tend to pile on, like they do in a kids football game. They pile on guilt. They pile on pressure. They pile on what you should have done. They pile on opinions, advice and what we fail to do is to treat one like an angel.
I thought about that expression, treat as an angel. In most of our minds, we tend to see angels as females, with long flowing hair and white wings on their backs. The angels we read about in the Bible were males. They weren’t even those chubby figurines of children that you see in gift store windows. Angels were spirits but a few times that came looking like men. They did that to Abraham. He didn’t know that they were angels.
But supposed an angel showed up at the door. You open the door and somehow you knew it was an angel. Bonafide, genuine, the real deal, carry papers certified in Heaven itself. It’s an angel and you know it’s an angel. He’s been in the presence of God. There he stands, and at your front door. Just how do you treat an angel? Paul felt like he was treated that way.
I’d turn the TV off. I don’t know if angels get hungry or thirsty, but I’d offer him something to eat and drink. I’d ask him to sit down. I think I’d ask him if I could help him and real quickly I’d be asking, why he was there and why my house. I certainly wouldn’t talk about myself or fill the time with chit chat that doesn’t matter. My curiosity would want to ask him about God and Heaven. If my phone rang, I’d let it go, even if it was the kids. I’d probably say, “I’m talking to an angel right now, and I’ll call you later.” And, they would probably think, “Yep, it’s time to put dad in the home.”
How would you treat an angel? You’d honor him. You’d go out of your way for him. You’d want to make him feel special. All that you could do to bring comfort and ease, you’d do. You’d offer the best bed in the house. You’d have him sit in the best chair. You’d be tripping over yourself trying to serve him and make him feel welcomed. You wouldn’t want to bother him.
For Abraham, it was feeding the angels, except he didn’t know that they were angels. No one has any real experience in this. You won’t find a book, “How to treat angels for dummies.” You won’t be able to Google, “Ten things not to say when an angel comes to your house.” Those things don’t exist. What we would do would be to serve the best we could and make the angel feel as comfortable and welcome as we could.
And this is the thought that Paul is pulling from. The Galatians took care of a sick Paul. They made him comfortable, loved and accepted. They went out of their way to serve him. Maybe it was a bit over the top, but for Paul, he felt like an angel. And, you and I can learn from this.
This is a wonderful lesson about how to treat others. Make folks feel special. Make them comfortable. Make them welcome. Here’s a few spots to plug this into:
First, those that visit our congregations. Folks bring friends and co-workers to worship. Rather than staring them down and avoiding them, treat them like an angel. “But,” you say, “they are not angels. They are not even Christians.” So. Do it anyway. Doesn’t the golden rule demand that? Isn’t that the way you’d like to be treated? Don’t run through the fifty question interrogation as to their background and religious history. They are there aren’t they. So they belong to a different church. Don’t bring up all the differences or why you think that group is wrong. They are there aren’t they? Treat them like an angel and maybe, just maybe, they might come back.
Second, visiting preachers. In some ways we are treated like angels, once we walk into the church building and begin our lessons. But often the communication and the accommodations are not very angelic. Once, I was preaching out of state. A hotel had been arranged for my stay. I arrived. It was not under my name. It was not under the church’s name. It was not under the preacher’s name. To my mistake, I had no phone numbers to call. I thought I’d have to sleep in the car. Someone arrived from the church. A mistake had taken place and it was corrected. Other times, minutes before I am to speak, I am told that afterwards I am to teach a teen study and then the next morning teach an AM class. Love doing that, but please let me know ahead of time. Each place has it’s own little routine of how they start and what will happen. The more you can share that ahead of time, the better and the more comfortable you make it on the visiting preacher. Treat them like an angel.
Third, prodigals who come home. Sometimes we are just not ready to treat those penitent prodigals with joy and celebrations. We have questions for them. We want to put them on probation for a while. We feel we need to watch them. And, for the prodigals who return, they feel like they are wearing an ankle bracelet from prison. Every word. Every action. Everything is looked at extremely closely. No, they don’t feel like angels. They feel like sinners and they feel like we want to keep them that way. The Lord sure gave Peter more than one chance. The Lord was happy to go home with a cheat like Zacchaeus. Give ‘em a chance. Treat them like an angel. Let them see what they have been missing. Let them experience love and acceptance.
Fourth, how about each other. We belong to God. We are God’s people. How about treating each other like angels? Paul knew the feeling. One guy said, “I go to church on Sunday and it takes me all week to get over that experience.” That wasn’t a happy thought he had. No angel stuff there. Stop the nit-picking. Drop the attitudes. Don’t talk about yourself so much. Kill the pride. We are all kin to one another, whether you want to admit it or not. We can be mean to one another or we can decide to treat each other like angels. Our hearts are supposed to be knit together in love. We are supposed to prefer one another. Maybe there’d be less churches splitting if we treated one another like angels. Maybe there’d be less people dropping out if they had the angel treatment.
Now, we’d all like to be on the receiving end of this. Treat me like an angel! However, we need to be on the giving side of this. Let’s treat others like an angel. And, before you ask, “Why should I?” the answer is because God treats us better than angels. Jesus never died for angels. He did for us. Angels do not carry the name of Christ. Christians do. So, let’s be about treating others like angels.