“I wish those who unsettle you would mutilate themselves!”
Paul is angry at the religious legalists who were teaching the Galatian believers that, in order to be saved, they had to follow strict laws. Such a mindset, according to Paul, is that of a slave – for, rather than depending on grace as a natural child does, a slave is constantly nervous about whether enough has been done to please the master.
In Luke 15, the Pharisees (read: religious legalists) were angry with Jesus for eating with “sinners.” In response, Jesus tells them three parables: the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son. In each, he tells of the finder’s love for the lost item and the thrill of its finding. In the parable of the lost son, in particular, Jesus considers the difference between God as father and God as master:
When [the son] came to his senses, he said, “How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.’” So he got up and went to his father.
But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. The son said to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” But the father said to his servants, “Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” So they began to celebrate.
In Galatians 5, Paul is angry with the religious legalists because they think that the only way to get near to God is to work for Him. They relate to God as a slave relates to his master. They did not understand grace and mercy because they did not relate to God as a son to his father. But, Paul understood:
For freedom Christ has set us free; stand fast therefore, and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery.
How do you relate to God? As a child of the Father or as a slave to the master?