Thursday, June 10, 2010

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?

Our Scriptures this week are 1 Kings 21:1-21, Psalms 5:1-8, Galatians 2:15-21, and Luke 7:36-8:3.

I am going to focus on the passage from Galatians. When I read this passage in my bible, it seemed like jumping into the middle of a story- it was. In Galatians 2:15-21, Paul is giving his justifications for why he got into a spat with Peter. But the issue actually starts in 2:11 with an incident in Antioch. Peter had been "eating with the Gentiles" until a new group showed up on the scene. At that point he stopped eating with the Gentiles and "drew back and kept himself separate for fear of the circumcision group." This group could be either Jewish Christians or possibly Jews the Christians were hoping to convert to Christianity (I like to cite my sources but I honestly can't remember where I read this bit). In any case, Peter is setting himself apart from the Gentiles, reverting to a state that gives the impression to Paul and maybe others that Jewish Christians shouldn't mix with Gentile Christians because of dietary restrictions and ritual laws.

This is what gets Paul upset and why he calls out Peter. Galatians 2:15-21 is a continuation of his reasoning for why Peter was in error. Paul believes that the Good News and faith alone is the basis of salvation, not adhering to Jewish law. If this is the case, Paul wonders why some Jewish Christians still stick to the law and exclude Gentile Christians for not following the laws in the first place. Paul wants unity in the new Church; he wants to find areas for common ground and leave behind practices that divide the ethnic groups within the Church.

For me this story resonated on the basis of overcoming or crossing ethnic lines. Two different groups, Gentiles and Jews, were coming together under one new system of believe. But what would hold them together? Someone had to be flexible or leave behind their previous beliefs and behaviors. Their love for Christ and the love of His message were powerful enough (along with Paul's arguments) to move the Jewish Christians to take a more moderate view.

People in the present day have this power too. Although a system or a way of being may seem too strong for us to break free, it can be done. You just have to find it within yourself to think differently, act differently. And the world does change, even if that change is slow or difficult. You may want to read a story from the Washington Post on the topic of interfaith marriages that I think relates: Because of love, more people are negotiating boundaries that before seemed insurmountable. But the road is hard...just as it was when two different cultures sat down for dinner together in Antioch. But sometimes Love wins the day. (Just for fun, in the Post article see if you can spot a quote that would get Paul in another fight.)

See you Sunday,

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