By Marcus Omdahl
Some of the most threatening people in the world are non-religious people. What? To whom? Religious people. I thought it was the other way around? It can be, but it doesnʼt always have to be. Why do many people who follow a set of religious values feel threatened by those who donʼt share the same system? Why donʼt they let their kids play together? Why donʼt they want to associate? Why donʼt they want to be seen with them, especially by their other religious friends?
One of the most fascinating spiritual struggles occurs in the opening 2 chapters Galatians, a personal letter written to a group of churches in southern Galatia in the middle part of the 1st century. The letter contains the struggle between two very religious people (Paul and Peter) about whether or not they can eat with other “lessreligious” people. Peter had previously pulled away from eating with other Christians who werenʼt Jews…that is, they werenʼt “as religious” as him. Why would he do that?
Why is having a meal with “less-religious” people be difficult for Peter? Why is eating with someone such a big deal, period? Itʼs a big deal because itʼs a sign of friendship and intimacy. Having a meal with someone says, “I accept you.” Having a meal with someone says, “weʼre equals”. If you have a meal with your boss, they are still your boss, but there is a new sort of equality. Having a meal with an employee blurs the lines a little bit in your work relationship.
Peter separates from his Christian friends because they werenʼt as religious as him (they werenʼt Jews). He separates because he was afraid his religious friends would interpret that as making himself equal with them. Paul challenges Peter (and the Galatians) for this behavior. He says in Galatians 2:11-21 that we donʼt become a part of Godʼs family by being religious, or following laws…we become a part of the family by placing our faith in the faithfulness of Jesus. We trust that his faithfulness to die on the cross in our place and for our sins, is what “brings us to the table” and brings us together! We are equals! We should be eating together. Why? Because we all get to the same “table” the same way – by our faith in the faithfulness of Jesus.
If youʼre reading this and youʼre a Christian, I want to challenge you. You might need your less-religious, or even your non-religious friends to threaten your “religiousness” a bit. You might need to be reminded that you didnʼt get to Jesusʻ table because you were so great, and neither will your friends of family (Itʼs actually quite the opposite). In fact, if they do get to Jesusʻ table, itʼll be the same way you go there, by trusting in him and his faithfulness at the cross.