Don’t Like Diversity? You’ll Hate HeavenHow can you force the Gentiles to live as Jews?Â Thatâ€™s the pointed question Paul asked Peter (Gal. 2). Peter was flirting with a double standard. He was willing to chow down on some bacon and pork chops when his Jewish brothers werenâ€™t around. But if he caught wordÂ that some fellow Jews were dropping in, he would drop out. HeÂ wasnâ€™t about to let them catch him at a Gentile barbecue.
Before this confrontation,Â Peter and Paul had been on the same page.Â At the Council of Jerusalem,Â they both insisted Gentile believersÂ shouldnâ€™t be burdened withÂ Jewish practices that arenâ€™t necessary for salvation or sanctification (Acts 15). While the Council did touch on the issue ofÂ permissible foods, it mainly focused on circumcision and faith.
Many Jewish followers of Jesus thought Gentiles shouldÂ be circumcised before they could be properly considered Godâ€™s children. Can you imagine what a Jewish evangelistic conferenceÂ might look like? Yikes. â€œCome to Jesus. For you Gentiles, thereâ€™s a medical tent stage right.â€ Iâ€™m not sure â€œJust As I Amâ€ would be an appropriate hymn. I digress.
The issue really wasnâ€™t theology; it was about practice. Peter got the theology right: Gentiles donâ€™t have to live like Jews. But in practice, he was embarrassed to be found with them. He was ashamed to dine with them.Â His theology was good. His behavior was bad.
Which makes me ask, â€œWhat are some ways our theology on issues of different cultures can be good,Â butÂ our practices be bad?â€
Where Weâ€™re Guilty
Could we beÂ guilty of seeking, however inadvertently,Â to homogenize the faith community? Do we prefer theÂ comforts of our culture over the diversity of Christâ€™sÂ kingdom? Iâ€™ll just say this:Â Iâ€™m glad the gospel is big enough to redeem people and to redeem their categories of cultural expressionÂ for his purposes.
If you donâ€™t like diversity, you are going to hate heaven.Â Itâ€™s the one placeÂ whereÂ no one will fight over whose cultural expressions are best suited for Godâ€™s work. At the throne of a resurrected Jewish carpenter, Peter and Paul will be standing side by side, surrounded by a radiant sea of people from every tribe and tongue crying out in perfect harmony. BeforeÂ that throne above, our theology and practice will finally be wed togetherÂ perfectly and eternallyÂ for Godâ€™s glory.
SoÂ preach the gospel. Donâ€™t add to it. Donâ€™t subtract from it. AndÂ donâ€™t export your culturalÂ baggage as a standard for salvation or sanctification.Â The gospel is offensive enough without your help.
And when you carveÂ your Easter ham this weekend, think about Peter,Â who once backed away from the table out of embarrassment. Even more, let your Easter meal remind you of the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, where we will dine togetherâ€”in all our diversity and unityâ€”with the risen Lamb.
I originally published this post on March 25, 2016, withÂ The Gospel Coalition here.Â