“When Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray. When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in front of them all, “You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs? “We who are Jews by birth and not sinful Gentiles know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.” – Galatians 2:11-16
How often do we as believers become hypocrites because we worry what other believer’s will think if we live life with the unbeliever? We worry about our own reputation instead of others eternity. In doing so we act against the very gospel our faith is founded on. I know this section of scripture is speaking about the Messianic Jew and the Saved Gentile. But it can be paralleled to this mindset I’ve personally stated here. Not only were these Messianic Jews and Saved Gentiles but they were the leaders of the faith in their day. Ouch. I implore our leaders, and our entire body of believers to check the root of our actions? Are we making decisions on how we live and who we live life with based on what other believers will think or on what the gospel really is all about? Earlier in Galatians Paul says we can’t please both God and men. This isn’t about pleasing godly men or ungodly men. No. It’s about pleasing God instead of pleasing God fearing men. Granted if we are truly God fearing men then we will be pleased with what God is pleased with. But our concern should not be with men thoughts but with God.
I say all this because it’s time I checked myself. One never changes if you don’t reflect on oneself. Why do I make decisions they way I do? Are my daily, even daily mundane, decisions based on the foundation of the gospel I profess? Or are these decisions filtered through what I think others might think? If I am being completely honest I think to a certain extent we all concern ourselves way too much with what others will think, especially our spiritual leaders? I love the spiritual leaders I have in my life right now, they are wonderful examples of Jesus, their love and leadership is unmatched in my book. But it doesn’t mean that I unfaithfully concern myself with their thoughts… maybe even more at times than I do with God’s thoughts. I want to change this habit.
I constantly need to remind myself that no person is justified by the works of the law. I would never say that I believe otherwise but at my core, in my inmost self is there a part of me that does? It is only by faith is our Lord, our Savior, Jesus Christ. My actions however well intended do NOT make me holier. God forbid me to lean on this lie. I know I am no holier than all my Christian brothers and sisters. My sin has made me equally in need of a Savior. My sin is just as ugly as someone else’s sin. It’s only through Jesus that I can approach him with confidence, clean, and whole.
“But if, in seeking to be justified in Christ, we Jews find ourselves also among the sinners, doesn’t that mean that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not! If I rebuild what I destroyed, then I really would be a lawbreaker. “For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” – Galatians 2:17-21
We hang out with the sinners because it’s what Jesus calls us to, it’s what he did. Not that we condone sin but that we share the good news with all sinners for just as we have been saved by grace so can any sinner willing to surrender to God’s grace. His gift is to be shared with the broken and hurting. And the best way to share to good news is to live life with the people who don’t know it.
Jesus said he came for the sick. He came for the sinners.
As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him. While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples.When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” – Matthew 9:9-13
In Matthew 9 Jesus refers to an Old Testament scripture. One the Pharisees would have known.
“For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.” – Hosea 6:6
He uses their books to rebuff them. You got to love it. Jesus straight up says it’s about HIM not about the law. Let go of the Old Testament, the Old Covenant. There is a New Covenant. His mercy is that we are free to acknowledge HIM and in our acknowledgement of HIM, Jesus, we are instantly saved through his grace. When it all comes down to it… that is the only thing that really matters. Acknowledging Jesus, that he is who he says he is, the Son of the Living God, the one true Lord, and Savior.
Here’s just a little extra snippet. Not only did Jesus hang out with the sinners but he actually called them to be his disciples. He choose the sinner (Matthew) instead of the spiritual leader (Pharisee) to propel his good news into the world and through all generations. (If you could see my face right now, you would see a little mischievous grin).
Thank you that my justification is not dependent on my works but thank you that it is wholly dependent on you. Thank you for freeing me to acknowledge you as my Lord and Savior. Thank you for justifying me by faith. May I be reminded that the only one I should aim to please is you yourself. In my day to day choosing help me, guide me, to please you. Give me the strength to let down my worry of what others might think that I may be fully obedient to you. In times of failure I will put my hope in you, the author and finisher of my faith. Thank you that you choose me to propel your good news to the world. I love you Lord. Amen.