You are separated from Christ,
you who are trying to be justified by law;
you have fallen from grace.
For through the Spirit, by faith, we await the hope of righteousness.
Saint Paul pronounced a terrible judgement on his religious opponents, "You are separated from Christ!"
He was never a man to mince his words; he didn't try to make his teachings more palatable with political correctness. As Hebrews, he, his disciples and his opponents preferred strong, confrontational language. Like Jesus and the Pharisees a generation before, they relished rather than avoided religious arguments.
Twenty centuries later we recall many wars of religion and shudder at the implicit threat in the Apostle's words. The killing of Saint Stephen foreshadowed the Saint Bartholomew's Day Massacre, when French Catholics rioted and slaughtered Protestant Huguenots. The tragedy set off a series of wars and normalized Christians killing Christians. There followed the Napoleonic Wars, the American Civil War, and two "World Wars." We'll need a thousand years of peace to set those tragedies behind us. Despite the atheism of the Axis and Allied nations of World War II, many people still think religion is the cause of all wars. I hear that even among Veterans of the Vietnam War, who were not fighting Buddhism or Muslims.
But there is something warlike about the spiritual life. There are innumerable allusions to warfare in the Bible; many are used to describe the spiritual life. Jews, Christians and Muslims, despite their irenic intentions, often steel themselves for spiritual combat. Monks of the middle ages were mostly retired soldiers, the scions of warrior clans. Discovering that their fighting only led to more fighting, they renounced "the world" and trained their energies on the enemy within.
Inspired by this citation from Galatians 5, we should train our weapons on the inner Pharisee rather than on a fellow Christian, Jew or Muslim. My inner hypocrite compromises freedom and accepts a false sense of righteousness. Do I rely on the mercy of Jesus which I have seen and experienced in sharing his cross? Or do I avoid crosses and seek a shortcut to my personal resurrection?
Some of Saint Paul's Galatian disciples thought they had found a surefire way to redemption by way of circumcision. Sure, it hurt like the dickens for a few days but it assured a lifetime of spiritual and mental ease.
The Apostle insists “only faith working through love” counts for anything, that love which is guided by God’s Spirit and suspicious of my own impulses. With frequent confession and daily examen, I learn to recognize the suggestions of anger, resentment, fear, greed, lust and so forth. I learn to listen to the gentle, whispering sound which is the Holy Spirit, prudent and eager, generous and guarded, sober and delightfully playful.