Hannah Hallett has provided this week’s notes.
Hello everyone, it’s great to be able to do this again. What a privilege this has been so far for us to be reading together! Hopefully this week won’t be too much of a downer!! I have to admit that I’ve got some great passages to look at, some challenging stuff too. Today’s passage is particularly meaty (excuse the pun!), you can read it here.
I think we probably read this with some bias to be honest, I know I do. When I read passages like this (and others like those in Galatians) I think some of it is lost on me. I don’t get what the big deal is about including the gentiles. The bias is, of course, that I’m one. We’re so clear on this issue that the drama can pass us by but this is scary stuff for the Jews at the time. God had chosen his people, he had clearly chosen Abraham’s descendants, that part isn’t really up for negotiation – even for us. God’s people had rejected him repeatedly (see the WHOLE of the Old Testament for more info!!) and he had continually shown them grace in his acceptance of them, guiding them and loving them throughout. All of a sudden, it has become a free for all. It throws some serious questions out there for them. Being a Jew was a big commitment, they had to eat differently, live differently, learn differently and they had to be circumcised – not something to be laughed off! This is significant stuff and it’s no wonder Peter has to ‘start from the beginning’.
There’s a lot to learn from Peter’s defence. I think most of us will have felt attacked by our church sometimes, I know there have been times when I’ve been sure that I’m doing what God has asked of me and have been questioned and doubted by others. I doubt I’m alone in that. I also know though, that I did not react like Peter. Peter is not offended or shocked that they would question, he gives an orderly account, talks about his motivation and the way God spoke to him. I think I would probably be much better off if I took a leaf out of his book.
Even when the church is growing and the gospel is preached, Christians in this passage have an issue. Where God is moving we need to learn to move with him, our standards and preferences are redundant. We can get really caught up sometimes in how we do church. How many songs should we sing? What type? How many hymns and how many new ones? How long should we pray? How long should we keep the kids in the service? And so on. I know that I get so caught up in my answers to those questions that I don’t focus on preaching the gospel, reaching the unreached.
One of the things I sometimes am involved in with my work is recruitment. It’s a nasty business. One of the processes which we affectionately call “sifting” is basically going through applications and scrutinising them for any reason we should put them in the “no” pile. It’s ruthless and although we try, it’s often unfair. The wonderful news is that God has no sifting criteria. Galatians 3:28 says “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” YES!
Free at last
Every debt has been repaid
Broken hearts can be remade
Sing above the storms of life
Sing it through the darkest night