Beware of hypocrisy

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.
Galatians 2:20 (NIV)

Read:  Galatians 2:11-21

Consider:  Today’s reading recounts an episode in the church in Antioch where certain Jews were teaching that to be true believers they had additionally to adopt Jewish customs and traditions; in particular circumcision. Additionally, traditional Jews would not socialise or eat with Gentiles and when visitors from Jerusalem came to Antioch, some of the Jewish believers separated themselves from the Gentile believers.  Even Peter (Cephas) was led astray and this led to Barnabas falling into the same error.  In Galatians 2:12-13 we read:  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.

Paul saw this hypocrisy and intervened, opposing Peter to his face.  Can you see how easily Peter, Barnabas and the Jewish believers in Antioch were led astray by what we would today call ‘peer pressure’?   Don’t underestimate how peer pressure can cause people to fall into error.  Let’s be clear about this, the incident recorded in Galatians 2 could just as easily happen today.  Today, the catalyst for this kind of hypocrisy is unlikely to be circumcision, or eating with others.  It is more likely to be people feeling they have to conform to some tradition adopted by the church so as to fit in.  Every church has to be wary of this, because sometimes these traditions become so important in people’s minds that they censure those who do not conform to them.  

Later in today’s passage Paul makes it clear that no-one can be justified by conforming to the law, but only through faith in Christ (2:16).  Notice what Paul says in Galatians 2:20 – 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.  Having just passed Easter the crucifixion should still be uppermost in our minds.  While being crucified with Christ has meaning at many different levels, at its most basic level it means that we have died to our former life and now live as belonging to Christ.  This is what Paul says elsewhere: In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace (Romans 6:11-14).

 Pray:  Father, help us to avoid hypocrisy in our lives.  In our churches keep us from expecting people to conform to man-made traditions and rules .  May we live as those who are justified by faith alone.  Amen

Every blessing