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September 19, 2021 | Doug Sauder
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“For he regularly ate with the Gentiles before certain men came from James. However, when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, because he feared those from the circumcision party."—Galatians 2:12 (HCSB)
Have you ever treated someone differently based on who was around? My entire childhood, I had a relative who bullied me relentlessly and mercilessly when all the other relatives were around. I don’t know why. Maybe he thought it would make him look cooler. Maybe he thought they wanted me to suffer and he needed to oblige. I’m not sure, but I do know he acted differently when they weren’t around. When it was just us, he was actually nice to me. In fact, we genuinely had fun together . . . until everyone was gathered again.
In the verse above, we see Peter doing something similar. Here, Peter had come to visit Paul and Barnabas. He was hanging out, having great fellowship, and eating with this group of Gentiles in Antioch . . . until a group of people came down from Jerusalem. When they arrived, something radically shifted in Peter’s behavior . . . “he withdrew and separated himself.” Paul used the word separated (aphorizó) here intentionally because it’s the same Greek root found in the word Pharisee!
I can imagine the scene . . . I hear some of the Gentiles saying, “Hey Peter, we saved you a seat, and even got you a little extra bacon. We know how much you like it!” And he just completely ignored them and sat with the cool kids at the cool table. He treated them differently because “he feared those from the circumcision party.”
But here’s the lesson Peter—and you and I—needed to learn: Anytime you operate in fear instead of faith, you enslave yourself. Why? Because when you live to please the crowd, you’re giving people power over you. I know all too well that when you give people power over you, they abuse it! Peter allowed his fear of man to put chains around his neck that Jesus never wanted him to walk in.
Friends, don’t let fear rob you of your freedom. Is the praise of man really worth hurting others? Is it worth ignoring the voice of God, who loves you so much, in order to give power to people who don’t really care about you? Paul would say, “Certainly not!”
We have to be courageous enough to walk in Christ and as Christ. Does that mean you won’t feel fear? No. Courage doesn’t mean fearlessness. Courage means feeling fear, but doing the right thing anyway. And in Jesus’ name, we can find the courage to rise up and do what God calls us to do, no matter what people think.
DIG: Read Galatians 2.
DISCOVER: Have you ever treated someone differently because of who was around, out of a fear of man? What were you afraid of? Have you ever been treated badly by someone who acts differently when they’re not surrounded by a certain group? How did you feel in that moment? What do you wish you could have said to them?
DISPLAY: Make it a point today to treat people as Christ treated us. Show compassion, kindness, generosity, and grace to everyone, no matter who is around, no matter what it might do to your reputation. Drop all boundaries of race, gender, lifestyle, appearances, and status and display the love of Jesus. Show the life-changing, life-giving, freeing power of His love through your treatment of others.
Danny Saavedra has served on the staff of Calvary since 2012, managing the Calvary Devotional and digital discipleship resources. He has a Master of Arts in Pastoral Counseling and Master of Divinity in Pastoral Ministry from Liberty Theological Seminary. His wife Stephanie, son Jude, and daughter Zoe share a love of Star Wars, good food, having friends over for dinner, and studying the Word together as a family.