I have this obsession of analyzing things way too much, and because of this over-analyzation problem, I’ve come up with this theory of heroism in humanity. I don’t take credit for this theory, it’s not really an abstract thing, and I [probably] won’t be writing my dissertation on it, however, I think it’s probably the coolest thing my brain has ever created. In every tragic hero-story ever written, the hero has this thing that Aristotle called a “hamartia,” or as it’s more commonly referred to as the tragic flaw. The tragic flaw, in short, is literally the reason that the hero dies at the end of the story, or it is just the main source of a hero’s suffering. In Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Macbeth’s tragic flaw is his own ambition, in the classic tale Beowulf, Beowulf’s tragic flaw is his pride, in the Disney classic, Peter-Pan, Peter’s tragic flaw is his fear of growing up. People too, I think, have a tragic flaw as well because there is a hero side to all of us—I mean, there is a part of us that believes we can save someone or something. I don’t think that a person’s “tragic flaw” will be involved in how they die like in most Greek tragedy’s, however, I think it’s a tragic flaw because it causes us to suffer.
Right now a few friends and I are reading through the book of Galatians, and it has been incredibly refreshing for my faith. I read through the book one afternoon on my own, and it was like I was hearing the gospel for the first time again.
Paul explains from the get-go that his mission is to preach a gospel of inclusion for the Gentiles. Even after Jesus died, there were a million and two people who still couldn’t grasp that Jesus’s death abolished a life of living by the law and that He didn’t die for Jews alone, but for everyone. In chapter two, he refers to his third trip to Jerusalem, and during this trip, there was a moment where the Christians who were previously Jewish could sit and eat with the Christians who were previously Gentiles. Eating food is a big deal in Jewish custom and in this specific context, it would make a Jew ceremonially unclean to eat with a Gentile. Peter (Cephas), who was on the trip as well, didn’t want to sit with the people who hadn’t been circumcised (aka, the Gentiles). Paul watches as Peter totally avoids them, and how his actions convinced Barnabas and other Jews to follow his hypocrisy. Paul is ticked off—righteously so—and calls Peter out on his crap, and he asks him why he still insists on forcing the Gentiles to follow Jewish custom if he knows that a person is not justified by the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ (v11-16).
Paul’s mission from God was to preach inclusion for people who weren’t Jewish, who didn’t follow the law. His message was to include people who seemed to have no hope.
Have you ever realized you messed up like immediately after you’ve messed up? I’m not talking like you spilled your coffee and now it’s everywhere and there’s just a huge puddle of coffee and you’ve made a mess, but I mean like, have you ever hurt someone? Unintentionally maybe, but you did it, and then the moment it happened, you realized you messed up? I had this kind of realization recently. It was kind of a long time coming, to be honest—eventually, your mistakes will catch up to you and you will inevitably reap the consequences of what you’ve done.
Whenever I’m confronted with the reality of my sin, I feel a lot of things, but I think my initial feeling is almost always that there’s no hope for me. Kind of like the heroes in tragedies.
There’s a lot of different things that we can take from this story, but I think there’s a message in this one for all of us. We’ve been every character in this story. We’ve been Paul, and we’ve been able to stand up for people who want to accept the grace freely given by Jesus. We’ve been Peter, and we’ve avoided people who are “different” than us, falsely justifying it by our religious law-following. And we’ve even been the Gentiles, and we’ve [unfortunately] faced exclusion because of others self-righteousness and pride.
In this chapter, heck, in this book, Paul has one overwhelming message for all of the readers, and that is that there is Jesus, and where there is Jesus, there is grace—and my dudes—where there is grace, there is H O P E. And this #hope runs in abundance.
We are human. We have all of these flaws, and thankfully, none of them are tragic as they are in Greek tragedies. All of these things that make us messy and stressy and that pretty much scream that we’re hopeless, are more reason for Jesus. Paul’s letters provide us with encouragement and remind us that Jesus doesn’t care if we have it all together, He doesn’t care where we come from, and He wants us no matter what we do or who we are at the end of the day. At the end of the day, there’s nothing we can do to earn salvation, to earn grace; Paul said it best when He said that if it was still by works, then Christ died for nothing (ch. 2, v. 21).
Let’s give ourselves a little grace this week, and remember the hope we have in Christ.
grace and peace.