"But when I saw that they were not acting consistently with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?” We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; yet we know that a person is justified not by the works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ. And we have come to believe in Christ Jesus, so that we might be justified by faith in Christ, and not by doing the works of the law, because no one will be justified by the works of the law" (Galatians 2:14-16).
Christianity evolved from Judaism. With very few exceptions all Paul's letters were written to meet an immediate situation. The situation being addressed in the above text has to do with a decision made in Jerusalem that in effect purported that the Jews would go on living like Jews, observing circumcision and the law, but that the Gentiles were free from those observances. Clearly, things could not go on like that, because the inevitable result was to produce two grades of Christians and two quite distinct classes in the Church.
Paul's argument runs like this. He said to Peter (Aramaic 'Cephas'), "You shared the table with the Gentiles; you ate and lived as they ate; therefore approved in principle that there is one way for Jew and Gentile alike. How can you now reverse your whole decision? You were quite willing to live like a Gentile; and now you have swung round, and you want the Gentiles to be circumcised and take the law upon them and become Jews." This did not compute with Paul.
To help better understand the context we must understand the meaning of one word in particular: sinner. When a Jew used the word sinners of Gentiles they were not thinking of moral qualities at all; they were thinking of the observance of the law. For example, Leviticus chapter 11 lays down the Jewish food laws and details and classifies the animals which they may and may not use for food. A Jew who ate rabbit, or who ate pork, broke those laws and became a sinner in this sense of the term.
So Peter would answer Paul, "But, if I eat with the Gentiles and eat the things they eat, I become a sinner." And Paul's answer would be, "We have agreed long ago that no amount of observance of the law can make a person right with God. That is a matter of grace. A person cannot earn, they must accept, the generous offer of the love of God. There is, for every believer, the temptation to try to earn the favor of God. But it is utter trust in the love of God in Christ that properly aligns a person with God. Jesus did not tell you to try to earn salvation by eating this animal and not eating that one. He told you to fling yourself without reserve on the grace of God."
Christianity that focuses too much on the belief that its law-abiding achievements are superior to that of other Christians, and that in the eyes of God they alone shall find favor, is not true Christianity at all.
Beggarly Heart by Rabindranath Tagore
When the heart is hard and parched up,
come upon me with a shower of mercy.
When grace is lost from life,
come with a burst of song.
When tumultuous work raises its din
on all sides shutting me out from beyond,
come to me, my lord of silence,
with thy peace and rest.
When my beggarly heart sits crouched,
shut up in a corner, break open the door,
my king, and come with the ceremony of a king.
When desire blinds the mind with delusion
and dust, O thou holy one, thou wakeful,
come with thy light and thy thunder
A Prayer in Spring by Robert Frost
OH, give us pleasure in the flowers today;
And give us not to think so far away
As the uncertain harvest; keep us here
All simply in the springing of the year.
Oh, give us pleasure in the orchard white,
Like nothing else by day, like ghosts by night;
And make us happy in the happy bees,
The swarm dilating round the perfect trees.
And make us happy in the darting bird
That suddenly above the bees is heard,
The meteor that thrusts in with needle bill,
And off a blossom in mid air stands still.
For this is love and nothing else is love,
To which it is reserved for God above
To sanctify to what far ends he will,
But which it only needs that we fulfill.
The impulse frequently arises in me to squeeze another this or another that into this moment. Just this phone call, just stopping off here on my way there. Never mind that it might be in the opposite direction. I've learned to identify this impulse and mistrust it. I work hard at saying no to it. I like to practice voluntary simplicity to counter such impulses and make sure nourishment comes at a deep level. It involves intentionally doing only one thing at a time and making sure I am here for it. Many occasions present themselves: taking a walk, for instance, or spending a few moments with the dog in which I am really with the dog. Voluntary simplicity means going fewer places in one day rather than more, seeing less so I can see more, doing less so I can do more, acquiring less so I can have more. It all ties in.
It's not a real option for me as a father of young children, a breadwinner, a husband, an oldest son to my parents, a person who cares deeply about his work to go off to one Walden Pond or another and sit under a tree for a few years, listening to the grass grow and the seasons change, much as the impulse beckons at times. But within the organized chaos and complexity of family life and work, with all their demands and responsibilities, frustrations and unsurpassed gifts, there is ample opportunity for choosing simplicity in small ways.
A commitment to simplicity in the midst of the world is a delicate balancing act. It is always in need of returning, further inquiry, attention. But I find the notion of voluntary simplicity keeps me mindful of what is important. You don't get to control it all. But choosing simplicity whenever possible adds to life an element of deepest freedom which so easily eludes us, and many opportunities to discover that less may actually be more.
~ Jon Kabat-Zinn
Jason E. Royle
Welcome to my blog. I'm an open-minded theologian committed to Christ-like compassion & understanding.