Thursday, April 11, 2013

Being Different

Gal 2:11-20  But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood self-condemned; for until certain people came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But after they came, he drew back and kept himself separate for fear of the circumcision faction. And the other Jews joined him in this hypocrisy, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. But when I saw that they were not acting consistently with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, "If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?"  We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners;  yet we know that a person is justified not by the works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ. And we have come to believe in Christ Jesus, so that we might be justified by faith in Christ, and not by doing the works of the law, because no one will be justified by the works of the law.  But if, in our effort to be justified in Christ, we ourselves have been found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not!  But if I build up again the very things that I once tore down, then I demonstrate that I am a transgressor.  For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

The way of Jesus will lead us into difficult, counter-cultural living.  Because following Jesus often asks us to “turn away from our sin” it will mean that there are moments when we will have to choose to be different – something that will make our friends and family uncomfortable! This is illustrated in the passage above: Peter (Cephas) was asked to embrace Gentiles as brothers and sisters. This ran counter to the culture of his friends, and so when they arrived he gave in to their cultural prejudice. Paul reprimands him, and reminds him that he no longer lives for himself, but instead he now represents the Christ who lives in him.

The challenge of Easter is to allow Jesus to put to death the old sinful prejudices/practices/culture, and to let new Jesus-resurrected views and actions be seen in our lives. This is not easy, because we will be asked to differ from our prevailing culture: some examples that come to mind - if you are an American, you will be asked to trust Jesus instead of your weapons; if you are a South African you will be asked to be kind and generous to foreign national who seek work; if we are heterosexual, we will be challenged to show love and acceptance to homosexual people.... and so the list of uncomfortable charity goes on......

Pray for the courage and commitment to be faithful to the values of Jesus, especially when this might alienate us from the values and customs of our friends and family.    

It’s no longer I that liveth,
But Christ that liveth in me.
It’s no longer I that liveth,
But Christ that liveth in me.
He lives, He lives,
Jesus is alive in me!
It’s no longer I that liveth,
But Christ that liveth in me.


Third Sunday of Easter
The Lord is with us
(Scripture reading taken from A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and Other Servants p.154)

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