Peter (also known as Cephas) had been doing the right thing, fellowshipping with the Gentile believers in Antioch. They had been sitting at the table and eating together, without concern as to whether the food was ceremonially clean or not, for he knew that the Gospel opened up all kinds of freedoms. However, when certain people came, who may have now been associated with the leadership of James, Peter backed off. We can only imagine that the ones whom he had befriended, became suddenly confused. Why was it okay for him to be with them before? Now, because he feared what others thought, he may have acted as if he did not know them.
Paul, never seeming to be one to mince words, confronts Peter and points out his wrong-doing. He knew that Peter was condemned by his own behavior.
We’ve all experienced what it’s like to be shunned by others. If you haven’t, I’d like to suggest that you may find yourself in a highly unusual circumstance. I remember moving to America and wanting so badly to be accepted and to fit in with the other children in school. Unfortunately they already had their friends, and they weren’t sure that there was space for another person within their circle. I soon discovered that, while I spoke English, the children in California thought I had a funny accent. They made fun of the way I talked and laughed at the German clothes that I wore. There were a few who were kind and would be my friend when others weren’t looking. However, it wasn’t “cool” to be friends with me so when others came around, they shunned me and acted like they didn’t know me. But everywhere I moved, there was always someone who was willing to genuinely show kindness and stick up for me, even in the face of what others thought. Some of these remain my friends to this day, and for this I am so grateful. They helped to change my life and give me confidence that I could be who I am, without the fear of ridicule. These friends, many of them from my High School days, created a protective environment in which I could flourish. I will be eternally grateful.
We are called to go out into all the world, and rub shoulders with those who may not be like us. Are we ashamed of people who are not like us? God may just call us to go and work among those who are addicted; or suffering from severe mental illness; or in prison; or who have a lifestyle completely different from ours. Sadly, if we live in fear of what others think, we will live within a very safe perimeter. It’s a place where we will never get to experience the joy of the miraculous transformational work of the Holy Spirit. In our safe zones we don’t need radical faith or dependence upon God.
Let’s be honest with ourselves and realize that we all have succumbed to peer-pressure at one time or another. We have lived in fear of what others think. Whether it’s about hanging out with people different from ourselves, choosing to live a modest lifestyle, wearing a certain type of clothing, or driving a used car, we probably all take a moment to think about what others think! I even stop to think about this when ordering food in a restaurant.
The good news is that Jesus came to set us free from anything that we find confining. There is no one to please, but our Lord Jesus Christ. We should be opposed to our face when we allow the opinions of others to crowd in and hamper the freedom that we are to have in Christ. Then, this freedom for our own lives ought to take us to minister to those whom others reject. Without fear we are to love and embrace those who are not like us.
Lord, I confess that there have been times that I have lived in fear of what others think. May I live in freedom which you have already provided for me, and may I be faithful to you in the ministry where you have called me to serve. Amen.
This post was written by Rev Carla Sunberg. You can find her original post here: reflectingtheimage.blogspot.com/2018/05/in-fear-of-what-others-think.html