A Necessary Faux Pas

When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong. 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.
(Galatians 2:11-12)

Paul didn’t care about impressing people. That’s why when Peter showed up at Antioch, Paul got in his face.  Peter would eat with Gentile believers when other Jews weren’t around, but he turned a cold shoulder to his non-Hebrew brothers anytime the aficionados were on the scene.  He acquiesced to a social standard.  Sometimes the gospel requires us to commit a necessary faux pas.

There is no room for “gospel profiling” in the church.

Peter was wrong. Dead wrong.

If you are racist then you are wrong too.

If you are racist you don’t understand the nature and beauty of the gospel.

The gospel welcomes all with no respect to socio-economical status.

Maybe this is what makes the gospel so attractive to the Dalit people from Hindu regions of the world.  The Dalit people are the social outcasts of their cultures.  But the gospel is no respecter of persons.

The gospel is color blind.

The gospel is caste blind.

The gospel is age blind.

The gospel is status blind.

If you believe the gospel you are welcome.  The gospel bids the outcasts, the less than, the unworthy to come.  The gospel beckons the beggars and heeds the homeless.  There is no partiality in the gospel.

On the contrary, if we had to earn God’s favor we would all be damned.

If our ethnic heritage merited anything before a holy God then the gospel would be nothing more than an elitist filter fashioned by a pernicious God to oppress the undesirable.

But that is not the gospel.

If you are guilty of “gospel profiling”, of creating mental categories of who deserves the gospel and who doesn’t, then you need to repent.

Racism is an antithesis to the gospel.

Perhaps this is one of the reasons the term “Christian” is first used in Antioch (see Acts 11:26).  Perhaps it was here that the church first began to move beyond its ethnic categories to embrace an identity that was lost and found in Christ.

Immediately following Paul’s rebuke of Peter’s hypocrisy, we find these words:

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20)

He placed no emphasis on ethnicity, education, or socio-economic status.  Paul viewed such things as dead and crucified.  All that now mattered to Paul was faith in Christ.

Some of my favorite preaching memories from the last few years have been the multiple occasions I have had to preach at an ethnically diverse church outside of Chicago.  Their church reminded me of the beauty of the gospel.  The gospel crosses every boundary, even the ones our culture frowns upon; Even the ones our culture assumes are impossible.  In the end the gospel is the worst faux pas.

The gospel is a violation of any social norm that impedes a person’s access to the grace of God.

The gospel is an offense to anyone who denies God’s unmerited favor bestowed upon all who believe.

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