November 9 I Monday
“When [Paul] saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, [Paul] 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?’” —Galatians 2:14
After Peter’s experience with Cornelius, a Roman centurion, where God showed Peter that the gospel message is even for the Gentiles, Peter returned to Jerusalem. He was met with criticism by the God-fearing Jews who said, “You went into the house of uncircumcised men and ate with them” (Acts 11:3). But Peter told them the vision he saw and shared with them what happened in Caesarea. He explained, “As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them as He had come on us at the beginning. Then I remembered what the Lord had said: ‘John baptised with water, but you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit.’ So if God gave them the same gift He gave us who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could stand in God’s way?” (Acts 11:15-17). Upon hearing this, the God-fearing Jews praised God that even Gentiles were welcomed into the kingdom of God.
Yet, in Galatians 2, we find Peter, the apostle that God used to bring the gospel to the Gentiles, is the very apostle that Paul is rebuking for being a hypocrite. Why was Paul rebuking Peter as a hypocrite? Because Peter was distancing himself from Gentile believers when those who stressed the superiority of Jews were arriving from Jerusalem.
Peter’s actions in Galatians 2 reminds us that learning to move beyond our own implicit bias is not a one-time experience; it is a lifetime of lessons where we are moving towards Jesus and living in line with the gospel truth. We never arrive; rather, we continue to grow in our understanding. Sometimes, even an apostle can relapse into sin and not live in line with the gospel truth.
The tension that existed between the Jewish and Gentile culture was so strong within the church that it led to the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15 to clarify the gospel message. What we see as we study the early church is that there was a progressive understanding among them on what the kingdom of God is like. The gospel rightly expressed brings people who call Jesus Lord together in a blessed unity. It calls us out of our cultural biases and baggage that has grown into our lives due to our family of origin or the worldview that we grew up in.
The gospel will make us uncomfortable, stretching us way beyond our sensibilities, requiring us to take action and repent of some of the biases that exist within us. It is a lifetime of learning and growing.
Prayer: Dear God, walking in line with Your gospel truth is not a one-time experience but a lifetime pursuit. Help my life to continue to grow towards reflecting Your gospel truth. Thank You, God.