Today’s Scripture: Galatians 2:11-13
11 But when Peter came to Antioch, I had to oppose him to his face, for what he did was very wrong. 12 When he first arrived, he ate with the Gentile believers, who were not circumcised. But afterward, when some friends of James came, Peter wouldn’t eat with the Gentiles anymore. He was afraid of criticism from these people who insisted on the necessity of circumcision. 13 As a result, other Jewish believers followed Peter’s hypocrisy, and even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy.
“I just wanted to look good in front of my friends.” I’m sure I said that phrase to my parents growing up after doing something stupid. I know my sister said it – but she was a much more difficult teenager than I was. Don’t tell her I told you that.
Wanting to look good in front of our friends is a very human thing. I think it has something to do with our tribal nature. We want to be in, not out. We want to be included, not shunned. We want to feel like we belong, so we do things that make us look good to the group or we follow along with the group norms. Violating those norms can get us thrown out – even if we know what we are doing is the right thing to do.
Peter apparently had this same problem. We know that Peter was part of the Jerusalem conference which decided that Gentiles did not have to be circumcised – become Jewish – to be Christians. In fact, it was Peter who had a vision from God telling him that Gentiles were part of the Kingdom! When Peter visited the church at Antioch, he at first ate with Gentiles – at first. Until his friends arrived.
The text says he was “afraid of the criticism” and so he stopped eating with the Gentiles and followed his group. “I just wanted to look good in front of my friends.”
As I read this text my first reactions is to point fingers at Peter. But the more I sit with it, the more I find those fingers pointing back at me. How often do I know what is right but defer speaking out because I’m afraid of the criticism? How often do I sacrifice my principles on the belief that to do so will at least keep me “in” my group. How often do I let what others think drive me away from what God wants me to say and do?
Look for ways you might find yourself following the crowd this week. Is it because the crowd is right? Or is it because you want to be liked by the crowd? While looking good in front of our tribe can make us feel good and make us feel like we are “in”. It can also lead us down a path we know is just not right.
God thank you for allowing us to be part of groups – but help us to know when those groups lead us astray. Give us the courage to speak up when we need to and to do the right thing – regardless of the consequences.
This Week’s Immerse Passages:
Day 11 pp. 125-135 1 Cor 1:1-6:20
Day 12 pp. 135-148 1 Cor 7:1-16:24
Day 13 pp. 149-164 2 Cor 1:1-13:14
Day 14 pp. 165-175 Gal 1:1-6:18
Day 15 pp. 177-190 Rom 1:1-8:30