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Saturday, January 28, 2012

Which "face" are you showing?

 14But when I saw that they were not maintaining a steady, straight course according to the Message, I spoke up to Peter in front of them all: "If you, a Jew, live like a non-Jew when you're not being observed by the watchdogs from Jerusalem, what right do you have to require non-Jews to conform to Jewish customs just to make a favorable impression on your old Jerusalem cronies?"
(Galations 2:14 The Message)

Paul has spent a significant amount of time giving the run-down of his credentials for preaching the Word of God, his calling being direct and affirmed by those who had walked with Christ during his earthly ministry.  He had submitted to the leadership of the New Testament church in order to have his teachings "validated" or "affirmed".  This was not so much because of any "need" to get his ministry "blessed" by the other leaders, but because he wanted to be sure he was aligned in his teaching - accountable and committed to sharing the whole revelation of Christ.

In the process, he began to observe an "inconsistency" in the walk on Peter.  You see, Peter had engaged in behavior we all have probably been involved in at some time in our life - acting one way with a certain group, and another with the other group.  When he was not being "scrutinized" by those of the Jewish "conservatives", he did not find it offensive to eat with non-Jews.  But...when the "conservative" Jewish brothers were in town, he refused to associate with the non-Jewish believers.  Paul confronts him for being a little "two-sided" in his behavior.

We cannot ignore the fact - we are probably as concerned with making a "favorable" impression in some "circle"!  We act one way when not being "watched" by one set of eyes, but a completely different performance is observed when oversight is likely to occur.  I wonder if we treat God this way?  I am thinking we just might!

There are times when we think God is not really watching us too closely - those are the times we allow ourselves to "indulge" in the things God has declared to be unwise, harmful, or mal-aligned with his will for our lives.  You have heard the example of the couple who argues all the way to church in the car, but once they hit the parking lot of the church, smiles appear, arms are around each other, and kindness abounds!  It is as though God wasn't there with them in the car!

For some of us, we'd call this being "two-faced".  What we are / do in private differs from the image we put forth to the public.  This is a very dangerous place to live!  Whenever we allow "inconsistencies" between what is done in private and what we are in public, we are trying to straddle the fence of dual allegiance.  When it suits us, we align with Christ - when it doesn't, we make an excuse for our behavior.  If we have to make an excuse for our behavior, we probably feel we have to defend it!  I'd rather have God be my defense - he does a much better job!