This week’s Sunday school lesson is about Galatians 2:20. The principle is, “To live the Christian life is to allow Jesus to live His life in and through us.” The first focus was on the opposite though, anxiety. Many of us are inveterate worriers, as if our worrying could actually prevent troubles or bring about positive outcomes. Of course, the opposite is true. We aren’t really in control of much at all, and according to the book, letting go will allow us to finally experience the peace and joy promised to us. That may be simple to say, but it’s not easy to do!
We spent some time going back and forth between Acts 15 and Galatians 2, discussing what was apparently going on between Paul and Peter when Paul called him on his wishy- washy attitude toward the Gentile believers. It would seem that Peter had rather quickly forgotten his vision and time with Cornelius and his family. One would think that Paul, who had been raised and educated as a Pharisee, would more likely have been the one to support forcing Gentiles to observe the Jewish laws. But that was not the case. Peter instead seemed to be supportive of the Gentiles until some Jews came around and he seemed then to want to impress them or at least defer to them. An interesting observation at this point was that Peter was a working class guy, and when he was growing up he would have been taught deference, unlike Paul who was higher on the social ladder.
The two accounts seem to say somewhat different things. I presume that the discussion was probably a bit longer than either account makes it sound, which could have caused the discrepancies. At any rate, Peter, on being challenged, came around and admitted that the Gentiles should not have to become Jewish or follow all the laws, remembering at that point the experience with Cornelius.
The question was asked why it seems so easy to be distracted by the law. One member observed that it would be a lot easier to have just a few things you have to do, as the Muslims believe. I think many of us fell into some degree of legalism in our early years at least. I mean, you want to be a good Christian, to not offend those you would like to bring in and to please the Lord. Someone sets out a set of steps to get you there and the next thing you know, you are stuck in legalism. The alternative involved continually coming back to Jesus for more instructions. Of course, from God’s perspective that’s a good thing, but sometimes as humans, we are uncomfortable without boundary lines.
Someone pointed out, and I may be skipping here, that a couple may be able to recover from a single case of adultery. Forgiveness and rebuilding seem quite possible, assuming repentance in the case of the offender is genuine. However, if the offender keeps doing the same thing again and again, then the marriage is usually not salvageable. It occurs to me that we did not get into the 70 times 7 thing here. That must be a discussion for another day.
Another person brought up the idea that some things need to be confronted, and then at what point would that need to happen. On the other hand, we are all aware that there are many churches even, where when someone falls on hard times, they are criticized instead of supported. A story was told of someone who was a deacon at a church, and when he had a serious auto accident, the church seemed most concerned that for a time, he could not perform his duties as a deacon. To us that is incredible, but it does happen. It seems like a good time to focus on Jesus and how he really dealt with the people who came to Him. What if there were someone around you, doing something that would seem to call for correction, but Jesus told you to just love them. Would that not be more likely to make them want to change their ways than if you shook your finger at them and shamed them?
It would seem that either or both might be appropriate in some situations, which seems to go back to how we need to get really close to Jesus in order to find out how He wants us to respond. Letting Christ live through us is never easy. In fact, it can get quite messy.
Then we skipped over a bit toward the end. We read Matthew 16: 24-27 and began a discussion of what it means to take up your cross. One member referred to the cross in terms of the burdens we all seem to have. Another objected that here it was referring to a deliberate act of choosing a form of self-sacrifice that was abhorrent to the people of that day, and reserved for the dregs of society. And somehow, in that act, we were all saved. Actually we pretty much ended on that note, since we were out of time.