Monday, February 20, 2012

We Gospel

Everyone has something they struggle with. New hearts live in bodies still awaiting resurrection.

Peter ran scared of his own people. Repeatedly. Of the cross. Of Christ being for all nations not just the Jews.

What will they think?

I met with a student leader today over coffee, with Galatians 2:11-3:1 open on the table.

Some characterise Galatians as a harsh letter but no one harshly says "the Son of God loved me and gave himself for me" - those are words of worship that come from a tender heart.

In Antioch Paul was in the room. Paul doesn't cast Peter out, but reminds him again of Christ.

Paul is heart-broken and confused by Peter and the Galatians, as we might be of ourselves.

How did I just do that.... again?

The Scriptures give us a window on an face to face pastoral conversation between two apostles. One "gospels" the other. Condemning him, but not condemning him, and drawing him back to the condemned and risen Christ.

Its the old old story. Hear it again.

Can I tell myself? And will you tell me?

We're trying to build more community in church. I long for our "Open door & open fridge" to be for those outside the church as well as within.

I found myself thinking "then we can talk about Jesus over breakfast" - as if among a group of Christians we wouldn't.

I make Peter's error too. Jesus to begin, then something more superficial to continue.

Peter at Antioch. Yeah, me too.

Evangelism: talk of Jesus. With Christians - Nod, smile, and be polite.

You too? We both noticed.

The temptation is to wallow and be sin focussed. There's enough despair in the world.

Peter was sin-focussed, hence the cover-up with law.

Paul tells it better. The Peter Life is over. The Christ Life is the real life now. 
Condemned with Christ, to live by faith. Now Christ living in me. The lover and giver of himself, in me. My life is Him now! Not "Am I a sinner or a saint" but "I'm in Christ".

Can we build more explicitly Christ community? Talking would be a start, but action too. Relationships that speak of inclusiveness and safeness rather than masks and distance.

Peter didn't say gospel-denying words, he lived them.

Can we love? Can we pursue the presence of Christ by the Spirit in the ordinary and not just in worship - though there too! Can we be distinctive because He is with us and so we're actually with one another not just in the same room?

Will you care so I know I can trust you? Will you welcome me so I know I'm home? Will you love so we can know Jesus?


  1. Powerful stuff there Bish. What a vision! So simple, and so difficult, but for the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. 'The most profound words in the whole Pauline corpus', not half. This is the kind of community that draws people to it, exponentially I think, if we're brave enough to do it. Let's pray we can! I'm with you, with Christ.

  2. Rather tangential, but reading ""Am I a sinner or a saint" but "I'm in Christ"" I was struck that Christ was both THE sinner and THE saint. So to ask ourselves are we a sinner/saint is to bring ourselves into contact with Christ.

    Similarly, I don't think Peter was too sin focussed. As you said he covered it up. We can say there's too much despair in this world, and there is, but there is also too little. Just like there is too much death, but also too little death (of our old selves/evil). Saying we shouldn't focus on sin, but Christ can make 'Christ' a cypher for someone other than THE sinner and THE saint he was for us. Perhaps we should so focus on sin that we see through it to Christ, not focus away from it to Christ.

    Connected to this, Paul didn't condemn Peter, but he did announce his condemnation publicly (2:11). It must have stung Peter like a condemnation. But, then Paul points out that "in Christ" we are "found to be sinners" but also "justified". It is "through the law", not apart from the law that Paul finds Christ.

    Which, incidentally is I think exactly the personal journey you go on in this post. You see the good law of God in the good example of Paul, you see yourself as condemned in that light but then find Christ in the midst of your condemnation and emancipated come up the other side to serve to neighbour.

  3. Never enough Song of Songs... and never enough Ecclesiastes.

    As always Dave K, extremely helpful.