Daily Reform, Day 95
Galatians 2:12 & Revelation 5:1-14
From the Reformer
Meats may be refused for two reasons. First, they may be refused for the sake of Christian love. There is no danger connected with a refusal of meats for the sake of charity. To bear with the infirmity of a brother is a good thing. Paul himself taught and exemplified such thoughtfulness. Secondly, meats may be refused in the mistaken hope of thereby obtaining righteousness. When this is the purpose of abstaining from meats, we say, let charity go. To refrain from meats for this latter reason amounts to a denial of Christ. If we must lose one or the other, let us lose a friend and brother, rather than God, our Father.
—Martin Luther, Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians
Pulling It Together
Antioch, where this face-off between Paul and Peter occurred, was a much different place than Jerusalem. The latter is what Peter was used to and had a law-oriented approach to following Jesus. This is not to say that Paul could not discern how Christians in Jerusalem would focus on the Torah and the temple. He probably understood all too well how Jewish Christians might concentrate on these things. Antioch was different. When Peter arrived there from Jerusalem he found Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians eating and worshiping together. It must have been a marvel to him and he had to have remembered the joy of eating with Cornelius, his new, Gentile brother in Christ. So Peter joined in with the Antioch believers, focusing on Christ instead of law.
Some from the Jerusalem Church took issue with this mixed approach to the faith. When the Jerusalem group came to town, Peter separated himself from the Gentile believers in Antioch because he feared the reproach of others. You may recall similar fear when he denied Jesus in the courtyard of the high priest (Luke 22:54-62). What he did in Antioch was no less a denial of Christ, and Paul spoke out against him.
It came down to this: in Jerusalem and in Antioch two Christian cultures were worshiping God in two different ways. Frankly, one seemed more focused on Christ than the other and they became known as Christians or Christianoi, people of Christ, because of their focus upon him. It was from this Christ-centered Church that the world was evangelized.
Today, the Church still has a difficult time with the ways different cultures worship God. One church declaims another over music, translation, art, or sacramental method (to name a few). Sometimes, it looks like we worship our ways. We must remind ourselves that Christ is on the throne and not the ways we worship him.
© Mark E. Ryman, Daily Reform: Devotions with the Reformers