“When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong. 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. The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray. When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter in front of them all, ‘You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?’” (Galatians 2:11-14 NIV)
Sometimes we have too pure of a picture of the apostles. We see them after Pentecost as perfect men and, after all, they have been referred to as “saints” down through the centuries. Yet, we see in this passage that Saint Peter was indeed no saint as we typically think of the term. He still struggled with cowardice and when faced with much peer pressure, he buckled.
Now there is no question that Peter’s life was transformed after receiving the Holy Spirit at Pentecost (Acts 2). He went from denying Christ in front of a few (John 18) to boldly proclaiming Him in front of thousands. He went from fearing Jewish officials to proclaiming he would not follow their command to stop preaching about Jesus (Acts 4). He was indeed transformed, but he was far from perfect.
I think it is sometimes easy for us to dismiss the applicability of the Word to our lives because we look at the people of the Bible through distorted lenses. We see them as perfect, or at least far different from us, so what they have to teach us, though nice, we consider disjointed from our reality. If we were them, sure, the teachings would fit, but we are not them. We are not giants of the faith. We’re just little folk struggling along the path of life, putting one foot in front of the other.
Well, I don’t think that is much different from their experience. Peter struggled. Paul struggled. Following a perfect God is a struggle no matter who we are. Yet, what we learn from these “giants” or “saints” is that we continue to seek God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. And as we seek, the Lord will transform us. The Christian life is a journey of growth, not a one time, all is fixed experience.
Today, if you think you are just not up to the task of living the Christian life, you are absolutely right. And what’s more, you are like every other human being that has ever lived, including the likes of Peter and Paul. Following a perfect God is no easy task, but what we learn from these saints is perfection is not a requirement; only a wholehearted desire to seek God and the willingness to be transformed is needed. Our Lord will do the rest. In the meantime, we just keep putting one foot in front of the other.
© Jim Musser 2017