As I said yesterday, Christ died for us all; Jews and Greeks, slaves and free, male and female. One commentator says that Christ has set us all free from any kind of slavery “to a political or economic system, to social 25 we are equalprejudices and barriers, to sin or habits or customs. Nor did He create us to be slaves of any religious system. From everything that would bar men and women from true fellowship with God, God in Christ has set us free.” Paul is ready to go to battle with all the other Apostles if need be. But he doesn’t have to. They agree! Freedom in Christ is for everyone! Everyone is equal in God’s eyes. I like to say that the ground at the foot of the cross is perfectly level. We all stand on sin’s ground! We’re all sinners and approach God on the basis of Christ’s righteousness not our own.

Yet in Galatians 2:11-14, Paul tells of Peter’s struggle with the Jewish influencers in Antioch. Peter had slipped into the old routines of the Law and seemed to have favored the legalists at the expense of the Gentile converts. Paul confronted Peter for this error. We read, “But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy.”

Legalism is powerful! We don’t want to be seen as less “spiritual” than the next person. When legalists look down upon those who might eat meals not approved under Jewish law, there is pressure to conform to the legalistic standards to save face. We don’t like being put down or considered somewhat less of a Christian than others for any reason. Peter’s eating with, then not eating with the Gentiles said a lot more than immediately comes to mind. A common meal says so much. As Lawson puts it, “Through common meals, friendships are solidified, romances are ignited, and barriers are broken down. To eat together is to treat one another as an equal. That’s the reason slaves have always been forbidden to eat with their masters. That’s also why, in the first century, no self-respecting orthodox Jew would share a meal with Gentiles. As far as the Jew was concerned, Gentiles weren’t equal.” In the early church the same spirit existed. The “law keepers” saw themselves as better than those not refined by the same culture. They could not lower themselves to the level of the godless “dogs” that ate forbidden meats. Paul would not stand for such distinctions in the body of Christ and neither should we.