Paul the great church starter goes to Galatia among Pagan peoples, converts a group of leaders and helps them to start a church and then moves on to another area. Jewish Christian missionaries come some time after Paul and are trying to convince the people to become more Jewish in their religious practice. To be circumcised, to follow the kosher food laws, etc. Paul writes this letter called "Galatians" to the people in Galatia and this letter and this point of view becomes the basis for which Christianity begins to reject its Jewish roots.
In chapter 5 Paul asks: What does it look like to be Christian?
How do we know we are being led by the Holy Spirit?
For the Jewish Christians it is being circumcised, eating kosher, and believing Jesus is the messiah prophesied in the old testament.
What does it look like to be a Christian?
It is a question that is always being asked again. Can Christians have tattoos? Piercings?
At one point in our Methodist history being a Christian meant not drinking, not dancing, not playing cards, going to church in a suit and tie if you are a man, or a dress and hat if you were a woman.
Over time these outward marks change with our culture and we are always asking again - what does it look like to be a Christian?
Paul’s argument is that narrow definitions of religious practice don’t work. Having a check list or a picture of a “Christian” doesn’t work. Outward habits of not doing this or always doing that are not the true signs of faith -- they are cultural definitions of who is "good" but have nothing really to do with our hearts.
What is really defines our faith is our connection to God through the Holy Spirit, allowing God’s spirit work in us to make us better people. The marks of being a Christian are in how we interact with people.
The practices that we take on – service, Bible Study, prayer, small groups are opportunities for us to grow and develop these qualities within us. But they are not the ends in themselves. Being a person of faith means cultivating the inner qualities that bring us closer to God and help us love our neighbor. Being a Christian is defined by our hearts, our attitudes and the habits of our minds.
When we meet a loving, joyful, peace-loving person who is good and kind and gentle and controls their temper then we know we have met a person led by the Holy Spirit.