Have you ever felt like you had to justify yourself? When your credentials and ability are being questioned, how do you respond? By pointing to a wall filled with diplomas? To a CV that lists all your accomplishments, publications, and certifications?
Apparently Paul knew something about having his credentials questioned. He begins his letter to the Galatians with a strong rebuke of those who might question him and in so doing, the gospel message. Interestingly though, Paul's credentials as an apostle of the gospel are not grounded in human connections. Though he almost sheepishly acknowledges a brief connection to Peter and James, this is downplayed when compared to a calling he has received from God.
When you try to explain your faith in Jesus to those who do not believe, membership in a church probably isn't going to be a strong credential for them. What they will want to know and see is exactly what Paul is claiming. They will want to hear personal testimony that God has called you, and that your life has been utterly changed by this call. That is the best witness to the gospel, not a wall of diplomas or a CV, but a transformed life.
Gracious God, in baptism we receive the only credential we need for life with you. Help us to follow the example of Paul and be bold in proclaiming this good news to all people. May our lives be witnesses of your love and grace so that others may be drawn to you. In Christ's holy name, Amen.
Galatians 1:11-24 (NRSV)
11 For I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel that was proclaimed by me is not of human origin;
12 for I did not receive it from a human source, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.
13 You have heard, no doubt, of my earlier life in Judaism. I was violently persecuting the church of God and was trying to destroy it.
14 I advanced in Judaism beyond many among my people of the same age, for I was far more zealous for the traditions of my ancestors.
15 But when God, who had set me apart before I was born and called me through his grace, was pleased
16 to reveal his Son to me, so that I might proclaim him among the Gentiles, I did not confer with any human being,
17 nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were already apostles before me, but I went away at once into Arabia, and afterwards I returned to Damascus.
18 Then after three years I did go up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and stayed with him fifteen days;
19 but I did not see any other apostle except James the Lord's brother.
20 In what I am writing to you, before God, I do not lie!
21 Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia,
22 and I was still unknown by sight to the churches of Judea that are in Christ;
23 they only heard it said, "The one who formerly was persecuting us is now proclaiming the faith he once tried to destroy."
24 And they glorified God because of me.