Opposition

” . . . I opposed him in public . . . “


“But when Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him in public, because he was clearly wrong.  Before some men who had been sent by James arrived there, Peter had been eating with the Gentile believers. But after these men arrived, he drew back and would not eat with the Gentiles, because he was afraid of those who were in favor of circumcising them.” (Galatians 5:11-12)

Ah, the seedpod of the lovely milkweed plant – the bane of allergy sufferers in the fall when it’s seed pods ripen and spew forth their lovely, web-like white sails with seeds attached – or so I thought . . .  I’m an allergy sufferer and for as long as I can remember I’ve always associated those beautiful milkweed sails in the fall with sneezing, itchy eyes, and all the rest.  I saw this plant beside the road when we went to visit the family cemetery in Kentucky a couple of  weeks ago and felt the need to take a photo.  I love the form and detail of the seed pod.

When I decided to use this photo for today’s “Wonderings,” I thought I’d just do a little research on the milkweed plant.  To my surprise I discovered that the white sails I had assumed were the bane of allergy sufferers are, in fact, used as stuffing in hypoallergenic pillows!  How wrong could I be!!!!!!!!!  (They’re also used to manufacture thermal and acoustical insulation as well as to clean oil spills.)  Like I said, how wrong could I be!

The Apostle Paul’s “Letter to the Galatians” was written to a group of people who were in the midst of a difficult struggle. Paul had taught them that we are saved by God’s grace alone in Jesus Christ.  Gentiles (those not born as Jews) who became Christians were not required to practice the Jewish laws, including circumcision.  Paul’s flock had later been assaulted by other Christians who taught that Gentile Christians must indeed practice the Jewish law.  Paul was particularly frustrated with Peter because Paul says Peter was flip-flopping.  If you recall, Peter had an encounter with God and was led to the home of a Gentile whom he subsequently baptized as a Christian.  Apparently Peter was flip-flopping back and forth over whether Gentile Christians should practice the Jewish law in several ways, including circumcision.  Paul became so frustrated with these Jewish Christians teaching circumcision that at one point he expresses the desire that the knife would slip and they’d castrate themselves (Galatians 5:12 – I thought I’d better give you the reference because you probably never heard that one in Vacation Bible School or Sunday School.)

This week the milkweed reminds me of just how wrong I can be, and how I can base my actions on those wrong assumptions and beliefs.  Peter and Paul, two of the greatest and most important leaders of early Christianity had conflict and trouble agreeing on what was the truth.  Yet, Christ’s church survived and flourished.  Sometimes I wonder why the later Christian leaders chose to include works like “Galatians” in the holy canon of scripture.  Why would they air the dirty laundry (conflicts) of early Christians if the goal was to present Christ to ongoing generations with the hope of making new disciples?  My sense is that their decision to include these works filled with difficulties and human frailties reflects important wisdom.  As a Christian of today I read these struggles and realize that God’s grace is what got them through, and will get me through.  In spite of the conflicts, difficulties in understanding complexities of human existence and behavior, confusion and disarray, God’s divine wisdom and grace brought the church through to continue to offer Christ’s love to a broken world today.

When I look at my life, I can see many instances where I’ve had to change my understanding and behavior based on new information and awareness.  I don’t know if I’m more or less right sometimes, but I do know that God is leading me in certain directions, and I feel compelled to follow.  I guess some will agree and others will disagree, but God’s grace will prevail.  If we allow, God’s grace can unite us in spite of our differences, because ultimately, only God truly knows which of us is a little right and a little wrong.  I pray that God will help me steer away from the quest to be right, and toward the quest to follow Christ’s new commandment – to love like he loves us.  How about you?

Blessings and Peace,

Gary

Cross Lanes United Methodist Church

Cross Lanes, West Virginia

Help save lives! For more information on my book, “A Relentless Hope: Surviving the Storm of Teen Depression,” visit http://www.survivingteendepression.com.

My other book, “Wednesday Wonderings: Spiritual Journaling Through a Lens” is available at http://www.wipfandstock.com and http://www.amazon.com.

Check out my video, “Teens Surviving the Storm” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o1hSpxC_G24

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~ by revgenelson on September 14, 2016.

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