Have you been there? Sunday morning. Socializing with your usual church friends, watching the kids buzz around like caffeinated bees, and in your peripheral vision you notice that person. Your posture shifts, you avert your focus, you busy yourself so as not to seem available. It might be a guest, or it might be someone you know about from conversations with others, someone you have decided you just aren’t comfortable interacting with. If you were asked to voice the reason for that decision though, the words would not come easily, and the excuses you might spout would sting of guilt more than they would exonerate.
The rather awkward relational situation I just described is sadly one I have owned on more than one occasion.
What I have often deemed a “social preference,” at its root, is an imposed prerequisite for fellowship. All the excuses in the world cannot mask the arrogance of such a standard.
In my recent study of Galatians, I was challenged by the account of Peter, who erred in such a way that Paul confronts him publicly, “in front of everyone” (Gal 2:14). If anything would give me cause for pause as I read through an epistle, it is the rare and unlikely words: “I opposed him to his face because he stood condemned” (Gal 2:11). A little bit of background story will shed some light on the details of the situation Paul is referencing. Since disagreement amongst the apostles is so rarely recorded, I wanted to fully understand the incident, and take from it the lesson it was meant to teach.
The opposition Paul speaks of is toward Peter (a.k.a. Cephas). Peter is a Jew by birth. Jews adhered to strict laws regarding food. This all changed significantly after Christ died. In Acts, Peter has a vision from the Lord (3 times!), where he is presented with all the animals that were considered unclean and the Lord tells him “Get up, Peter; kill and eat!….What God has made clean, you must not call common” (Acts 10:13, 15). This was the turning point in Peter’s understanding that Jewish law no longer had a hold on him. Salvation came through faith and not through performance or outward rituals. So Peter (and many other believing Jews) now broke bread and fellowshipped with Gentile believers, understanding that they each arrived at salvation not by their rituals (or lack thereof), but by faith.
So what exactly did the apostle do that put him “in the wrong”?
Continue reading this post where it originally appeared at The Thin Place.