For before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. – Gal. 2:12 NIV
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The Jews are generally a very egocentric people who believe that their history has placed them higher than any other group of people, after all there is no other nation that Jehovah has historically invested so much emotion in, than them. This history is the main reason behind their traditional act of discrimination against other nations as they deliberately avoid having dealings with them. To them, anyone who is not a Jew is a gentile, a word that simply means such is not a worshipper of the true God whose name is Jehovah. This is well known to non-Jews as they too tend to keep their distance from the Jews, so even when they all co-exist, the politics of discrimination remains. Jesus Christ on some occasions did try to cross this line of divide, through his actions and teachings but long standing beliefs remained, even after his departure – Jn. 4:1-25; Lk. 10:25-37; Matt. 15:21-28.
It must have therefore been a difficult situation for Simon Peter, the super disciple, not only to visit the home of a Gentile, but to be the facilitator of their receiving the Holy Spirit. He was to realize and admit on that occasion that Jehovah does not discriminate between people as he went ahead to baptize all who were present at that event and on whom the Holy Spirit had descended – Acts 10:1-48. So after going ahead to defend his actions before the brethren in Jerusalem (Acts 11:1-18), one would have thought he was now wiser and better informed not to discriminate against anyone on the basis of such not being a Jew.
The Apostle Paul obviously thought this way too since even Titus who is a Greek and who went with him in the company of Barnabas to Jerusalem for consultations with the Church Elders, and to seek clarifications on some contentious issues of doctrine, was not compelled to be circumcised on that occasion – Gal. 2:3. They had gone there to seek the position of the Church Elders on the argument by some Jewish teachers that circumcision was a pre-requisite for being accepted into the Christian brotherhood. The Church elders on that occasion had taken the decision not to compel anyone who was not circumcised to go through the rigors of circumcision before being accepted into the fold. The only addition to that instruction then was that such an intending Christian should avoid eating blood and the eating of animals sacrificed to idols – Acts 15:5-35.
So when some false brothers appeared in the Church in Galatia to enslave the brethren there with the teaching that their journey to becoming Christians was incomplete until they went through the rituals of circumcision and the same Simon Peter, who it was that presided over the meeting in Jerusalem decided to back them in their argument, the Apostle Paul was left with no choice than to accuse him of being hypocritical. The foundation scripture for today’s Devotional revealed that he began to back pedal from the decision of the Elders in Jerusalem because he was afraid of them, for a reason that the bible did not disclose – Gal. 2:12-13.
Hypocrisy is defined as the practice of claiming to have moral standards or beliefs to which one’s own behavior does not conform, and this is what was now evident in the conduct of Simon Peter. At this point, Paul had to act to protect the freedom in Jesus Christ, that the Church, who Jehovah had used him to establish in Galatia, was enjoying – Gal. 2:4. His reputation as the Apostle of truth was also on line and all that he had been able to build through all those persecutions and tribulations (Gal. 4:12-20), was about to be sacrificed on the altar of the ego of an individual who had undisclosed fears and under whose leadership the instructions were given in the first place – Gal. 2:11-13. He was left with no choice than to let all who care to know, that the same man who was agreeing with the idea of circumcision being a pre-requisite for becoming a Christian, had been dining and wining with the same people who he was now joining his fellow Jews to discriminate against. That was always going to be a bomb-shell exploding not only for those Jews who would now be shocked about his two-faced conduct but for him too, as whatever he was afraid of was thrown at his face. One can only imagine the shame for him and the disappointment of all those Jews with regards to his personality. He was exposed as a hypocrite.
Many Christians and their leaders today are in the mould of Simon Peter, the super Apostle. They say one thing but do another, and doing all in their ability to cover up their false lifestyle. They set standards that they do not believe in and so do not practice them, but due to fear of some backlash or the other, they choose to keep that part of their lives in the dark. Some actually become victims of those standards, the setting for which they probably were not involved in, but are left with no choice than to comply with, because of unknown or undisclosed fear. As much as it may be the right of anyone, Christians inclusive to choose the kind of life they decide to live, it will be wrong all day long, for anyone to not only insist on others complying with standards that he/she is not meeting, but to criticize, condemn and penalise those who are not complying with such standards. This is definitely hypocrisy and the implication of that for any group, the church in this instance, can be numerous some of which are listed below;
- It encourages unrighteousness as others believe all they need to do is to be pretentious with their Christian life. No wonder, most people have become comfortable with being nominal Christians as it seems all that is required is to make verbal pronouncements that do not match their actions. They have over time become like the Pharisees who preach standards that they do not uphold – Matt. 24:2-7. That definitely will not be the message that Jesus Christ brought to man.
- It discourages others with the possibility of such people departing the Faith. Not only will all those unattainable standards move people away from the Faith, but the awareness that the leaders lack integrity may be too much for the young faithful to stomach and may actually lead to them back-sliding.
- It destroys leadership with the possibility of creating anarchy. The awareness that leadership lacks integrity and so cannot be trusted, may make the followers show disrespect and contempt for any form of authority, the result of which is a situation where everyone operates based on personal rules and standards.
- It has the potential to destroy the achievements already made. Whatever may have been achieved will be prone to been destroyed as followers begin to lose respect for such achievements because of the loss of respect for the people associated with such achievements.
Although, Simon Peter seems to be a man of fear as he had displayed this character on many previous occasions, fear of drowning (Matt. 14:22-33), and fear of hunger (Jn. 21:3), fear of death leading to denying Jesus on three occasions (Jn. 18:15-27), but at least on those occasions, hypocrisy was not associated with his reaction to fear. This was one reaction to fear, a little too far, and which Christians must also avoid so that they may not be the tool that will continue to draw back the Church of Christ. It will always be better to profess what you believe and practice, as those who are around you will be able to know you as someone of integrity and should there be any need to correct you, they will be able to do so, rather than do what you penalise and condemn others for. May God help us all to avoid the act of Hypocrisy in Jesus name. Amen.