Wednesday, Third Week of Epiphany January 27

Text: Galatians 2:11-21

"Would Jesus have hung out with the cool kids?"

Many of you probably remember middle school and high school when everyone fell into some social category: cool, popular, jock, nerd, geek, etc. Occasionally, a teen who aspires to be among the cool crowd might feel peer pressure to abandon a longtime friend who has moved into some “lesser” status in order to congregate with those who occupy the supposed higher rungs of the social ladder.

In Galatians, Paul scolds Peter for succumbing to a similar sort of peer pressure, this time from the Jewish followers of Jesus. Peter, like a high schooler looking to build social standing, abandoned the Gentiles in Antioch so he could hang out with the “cool kids.” But there are no such distinctions among God’s people.

Paul points out the Gentiles are being judged as lawbreakers for not being of the “circumcision group,” a judgment that is not “in line with the truth of the Gospel” (Galatians 2:14). Peter is acting like the type of people-pleaser who Paul rejects earlier in the same letter: “Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? … If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ” (Galatians 1:10).

By alienating the Gentiles, Peter was falling astray of the message of God’s grace through faith in Christ — the one common thread we share with the family of believers through all challenges and trials.

Martin Luther firmly believed that the devil is ever present in the world, always trying to drive a wedge between us and God. When we draw distinctions among the family of believers for any reason — peer pressure, prejudice, personal animosity — we advance the evil one’s cause. Satan spreads his lies to divide us in many other ways — over race, ethnicity, gender, language, etc. We need only glance at the state of our nation’s political discourse to see a glaring example of the devil’s schemes at work.

We must make every effort to constantly cling to our faith in God and the redemption He gives us through Jesus Christ. If we do that, we can overcome the divisions that increasingly pervade society. We can stand together as one to advance God’s Kingdom on earth and find comfort through Jesus Christ, for we are all truly brothers and sisters in faith. As Paul asks in Romans: “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31). As long as we are united with Him and through Him, we can never fail.

~ Jeffrey Gilman



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