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Sunday, June 22, 2003

Edifier du Jour-Galatians 2:11-14(NASB)
11 But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For prior to the coming of certain men from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he began to withdraw and hold himself aloof, fearing the party of the circumcision. 13 The rest of the Jews joined him in hypocrisy, with the result that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in the presence of all, "If you, being a Jew, live like the Gentiles and not like the Jews, how is it that you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?
The early church was in the middle of a fight over what to do with Jewish rituals within the church. Jewish believers wanted to essentially be both Jewish and Christian and extended that to any Gentile believer. This included circumcision, which is rather painful without anesthetics that they didn't have in the first century. Needless to say, that would be a bit of a barrier to conversion for Gentiles who had been preached a more stripped-down Gospel. The early church settled the issue eventually by allowing Gentiles not to have to follow the letter of the Old Testament sacramental system. While most(?) modern males are circumcised due to idea about genital cleanliness rather than theology, we have other fights that can block people from becoming a believer. Many churches will have extrabiblical lists of does and don't that aren't listed in the Bible. Some churches would kick me out for seeing Finding Nemo yesterday and others would have kicked me out for playing bridge with my gang in Midland. Neither activity is sinful in and of itself, as far as I can tell, but movies, cards and other categories of entertainment have gotten blanket prohibitions due to sinful variants of the class. Those and other extrabiblical prohibitions, such as women wearing pants (it might have been scandalous in 1953, but in 2003, it's no longer cross-dressing, folks) or micromanaging hair length can distract from the presentation of the Gospel. We need not stick people with burdens Jesus didn't attend us to have. Another area that can get churches into trouble is hyperseperatism, where every opinion on the Bible becomes a go-to-the-mat issue. If I like the translation that has us forgiving others seventy-times-seven rather than seventy-seven times, I shouldn't be kicking out the fellow who likes 77. But many churches will show the left foot of disfellowship on comparable minutia. While it is good and proper to defend the core of our faith, remember to pick your fights wisely, else we'll all have our own churches with attendance of one, unless we excommunicate ourselves for violating our standards.

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