“The news travelled fast and in no time the leaders and friends back in Jerusalem heard about it — heard that the non-Jewish “outsiders” were now “in”. When Peter got back to Jerusalem, some of his old associates, concerned about circumcision, called him on the carpet. ‘What do you think you’re doing, rubbing shoulders with that crowd, eating what is prohibited and ruining our good name?'”

“So Peter, starting from the beginning, laid it out before them, step by step…” Acts 11:1-4 (The Message).

“Hearing it all laid out like that, they quieted down. And then, as it sank in, they started praising God. ‘It’s really happened! God has broken through to the other nations, opened them up to Life.'” Acts 11:18 (The Message).

Traditions and taboos — the worst enemies of the cross!

These men had yet to learn that God’s grace is for everyone. They were still clutching the tattered rags of their racial pride, still believing, in spite of their pitiful history, that they were exclusively God’s people. Externals were their passport to God’s favour, so they thought; circumcision and food taboos, of all things, their hope!

Like Peter, they needed to be jolted out of their fool’s paradise. They needed a new revelation of the nature of this God who revealed Himself in Jesus. Not even the years they spent with Him were enough to erase the misconceptions their religion had bred into them.

What had they heard that piqued them? True to form, the grapevine had produced a twisted version. By the time it reached their ears, it was enough to make them turn on Peter. “That crowd…eating what is prohibited…ruining our good name…” Strange how gossip cancels out friendship and the loyalty of those who should know better!

It would have to be a good story for Peter to get himself out of this one and, fortunately, his story was convincing enough to show up their arrogance towards him. Once they had heard the correct version, their attitude changed, fortunately, and they were convinced that Peter’s little excursion into “enemy” territory, was actually a revelation of God’s plan.

The most dangerous enemies of the church are not the “outsiders” who attack out of ignorance but the “insiders” whose traditions cancel out the truth of God’s word. This was Jesus’ unresolved issue with the religious leaders who eventually had Him executed because they would not honestly consider the evidence.

Jesus warned that the entrance to life is small and the way narrow. “Truth is a knife edge and error a wide flat land” I once heard a preacher say. The work that Jesus did on the cross is sufficient for all people for all time. He does not need our petty little additions to complete what His death accomplished. He does not need any qualifications like “circumcision’, whatever the equivalent is, and eating “kosher” food to make us more acceptable to Him than we are now.

There is nothing we can do to influence His attitude of mercy towards us because it comes out of who He is, not because of who we are. God is not obliged to do anything for us but He does because He is God.

The people who are so stuck on their traditions that they believe them rather than the truth of God’s word are a stumbling block to “outsiders” who want to know God. Imagine what would have happened to Cornelius and his associates had Peter allowed his tradition to overshadow God’s instruction! He would have planted himself squarely in front of their entrance into eternal life

Jesus still says, “Follow me!” That’s all…..

Luella Campbell

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