I think we’ve all had the experience of mishearing or misunderstanding a song lyric. You’re in the car, nodding along, enjoying the music, singing at the top of your lungs, when someone turns down the volume and says, “Hold on, what did you say? No, no, no…that’s not how it goes.” Now, maybe you turned out to be right. Maybe they turned out to be right. Or maybe the truth was somewhere in the middle. The point is that two people can hear the same thing and yet hear very different things. Whether it’s a physiological difference in our ears or environmental factors that impacted our initial hearing of a track, my experience of a song can be a distortion of the real thing. And while it can sting a little when someone points out that we don’t actually know the words to the song we’re singing along to so passionately, at least we (or they) are spared from any future trouble that our misunderstanding might bring.
In the case of mishearing a song lyric, the trouble visited upon us isn’t all that significant–perhaps just a little embarrassment–but what happens when our understanding gets distorted on more foundational questions? Paul opens his letter to the Galatians with greetings of grace and peace, but then there’s one of those moments where the music stops and we can hear him say, “Hold on, what did you say? No, no, no…that’s not how it goes.” It seems they were turning to a different gospel than the one they had heard, the one Paul was preaching, “not that there is another one,” Paul points out. That just isn’t how the gospel goes. Paul wasn’t authorized to make changes. Even an angel couldn’t do that. The gospel–the good news–was and is that which Paul “received through a revelation of Jesus Christ.”
Paul doesn’t immediately and specifically tell the Galatians how they were getting the gospel wrong. He’ll get there, but for now, he’s getting their attention and ours. Where might we be susceptible to a “gospel” that differs from the gospel of Jesus Christ? Where might we be tempted to seek the approval of man rather than the approval of God? Where might the competing messages of a noisy world be distorting our hearing or the hearing of those around us? Let’s pray that God will give us ears to hear what he is saying to us.