You were running a good race. Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth? 8 That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you. “A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough.” I am confident in the Lord that you will take no other view. The one who is throwing you into confusion will pay the penalty, whoever he may be. (Galatians 5:7-10 NIV)
I understand there are rules about “cutting in” on others during a foot race. In shorter races of 400m or less runners are supposed to stay in their own lanes for the whole race. In longer races up to 800m, they are allowed to cut to an inside lane at a given point, and in very long races, there are no lane requirements. But even in these longer races, no one should intentionally try to “take out” another runner by bumping, tripping or running across his path. Anyone breaking this code is subject to disqualification.
I have not been able to find an official rule book for runners in ancient Greece, but I suspect the common ethics of good sportsmanship frowned on intentionally interfering with a runner. At least Paul was aware of the practice since he used it to describe legalists in Galatia who “cut in” on a thriving body of believers in an attempt to confuse, divide and exploit.
The yeast metaphor Paul uses may remind you of Jesus warning about the yeast of the Pharisees (Mark 8:14-21). The connection in both cases is the same: a little falsehood in the right environment can blow up like sourdough bread. So no one should assume just a little false teaching is safe.
There is a slight, but significant difference between the running infraction mentioned here and the one that happens in track and field. The suggestion is the Galatians were “persuaded” by those who wanted to turn them away from the truth. They were running a good race when someone came along and fed them a line of reasoning they couldn’t resist. Before they knew it they were trapped by legalism, and well on their way to the dangerous pursuit of self-righteousness.
People can be persuasive. So how do you guard against confusion and falsehood? Here are some suggestions:
1. Cross-check what others are telling you with God’s Word.
2. Talk with others you trust to gain perspective.
3. Evaluate everything in light of big biblical themes, such as the Old and New Covenants.
4. Consider the motives of those who are interfering. What do they have to gain?
5. Take time to reflect on the things are taught or told before adopting them.
We get confused when people press ideas on us and give us a timeline to make a decision. Admittedly, some timelines are very important, but most of the time, we have time to study, pray, discuss and ponder.
Don’t let anyone “cut in” on your race. Take the time you need to think it through. And don’t fret too much about those who try to interfere. From the sounds of things, they will be duly disqualified…in God’s good time.
Dear God, keep me focused on the finish line. In Jesus’ name, Amen.