What is it about magic that we humans love? I mean we can’t look into any era of history and not see “magicians,” slight of hand tricks, illusions, and even attempts at mimicking miracles. We are fascinated by magic.
And that’s not, necessarily, a bad thing. After all, it’s good for our ego to have it challenged by amazing things that we can’t explain. Else we would start believing (wrongly) that the only thing that’s real is what I can see. Wait a second, that’s already happening! We humans need events, mysteries, myth, to reveal the limits of our own reason! BUT, we can also become “addicted” to magic and the desire for “instant” amazement. We daydream about “how my life would be if only…” We foolishly fall for the “trick” that a pill will make us “better,” or these “3 simple steps” will make us happy, or “say this prayer and, POOF, you’re saved!” We love magic, yes, but if our lives are captured by illusion, we will stay spiritually blind, asleep, and sick! There is a danger in being Bewitched!
Look at our lesson today in Galatians 2:21; 3:1-7:
BRETHREN, I do not nullify the grace of God; for if justification were through the law, then Christ died to no purpose. O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law, or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun with the Spirit, are you now ending with the flesh? Did you experience so many things in vain? – if it really is in vain. Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith? Thus Abraham “believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.” So you see that it is men of faith who are the sons of Abraham.
St. Paul is writing his parish in Galatia and asking them “Who has bewitched you?” He asks this because this parish has been racked with controversy over how Gentiles become Christians. St. Paul had established this parish and had gathered these converts to the Faith, telling them that they become Christians by embracing the Life of Jesus Christ. By faith they enter the Faith. They are baptized Christians and then they grow in their newfound faith through communion with God and with each other! But then some folks who had different ideas came to Galatia and told these Gentile converts that they had to be Jewish first to be “real” Christians. When Paul heard about this, he was, frankly, furious!
You see, he had already had a problem with St. Peter in Antioch. What happened was Peter and Paul were there with the new community of believers that were made up of Jews who had become Christians and Gentiles who had become Christians. After their worship, this community usually had a community meal together. Because of the conscience of some, they had a “kosher” table and a non-kosher table so that the new Jewish Christians could still eat as their culture had shaped them to eat. But they didn’t require this of everyone! So, Peter and Paul would eat from all the tables to show the freedom and mutual love the community was to have for one another. Then, some “dignitaries” from Jerusalem parish came to see what was happening in Antioch and Peter started eating only from the “kosher” table when these folks arrived. Paul confronted him with this and they had to talk it out so there would be no misunderstanding among the community!
Now, these Gentile converts in Galatia are starting to think they have to be Jewish to be Christian and they start insisting everybody keep the Jewish Law at the parish. Paul hears about this and asks them who had cast a spell on them to delude them and make them forget the Gospel he had preached to them. He sees their actions as symptoms of spiritual illness and confusion because these actions will miscommunicate the true Good News meant for everyone, and not just for “one tribe.” The Faith is meant to create a “new tribe” made up of people from EVERY tribe!
Today, where are you “bewitched” into believing that the Faith only “belongs” to this or that group? Are you “bewitched” by believing the Faith should conform to the modern society so that it is “respectable” by everyone? Do you know enough about your Faith to recognize where you might be “bewitched?” Our Orthodox Faith is meant to wake us up from delusion to reality, from the intoxication of unbridled passions to the sobriety of a “clear” head and heart! That’s why it’s so important to be Orthodox on Purpose!