Lent 2023 Day 30: Tue 28 Mar
When Cephas [Peter]came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray.
When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in front of them all, ‘You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?
Paul had a few disagreements with Peter over some issues. Paul was wanting to start new Christians who’d converted from outside Judaism on an open and level playing field with those who’d come to faith from Judaism.
Peter had been involved largely with Jewish converts (even Cornelius was as “Jewish” as a Roman soldier could be) and had seen the new faith arise out of Judaism. It would have been difficult for Peter at first to separate his new Christian self from his lifelong Jewish self.
For Paul, a Jew but also a Roman citizen, the issue was clearer. New Christians can come into faith from any faith or none. There is no need for the new person to undergo any practice or ceremony in arrears in order to backfill his faith history and identity.
We may consider Peter here to be a bit of a dinosaur, but we should remember that he was the acknowledged leader, to whom came all manner of people with their traditions and expectations. He’d also have had to deal with awkward customers (I’m not sure I’d want to upset the Circumcision Gang!) and attempt to reconcile people and their views. Sometimes you just have to stand up to those you believe are wrong, lest you be labelled a hypocrite.
How might you plan to sway your church leader to accept your expectations of the way your church should operate?
Have you ever spoken up against change because it might adversely affect you?
Have you ever graciously allowed others to effect change even though it might adversely affect you?
Should we as Christians stand plainly on our teachings or adapt them in the light of changes in society’s outlook?
Father God, in the storms of life You are an anchor, a point of stability in changing times. Help me and my church fellowship come to the truth of the Gospel message and stand firm on its principles, with humility, love and meekness. Amen.