Pretending comes natural to us. Just watch children at play and you will see them transform in their thoughts and actions to be super heroes, teachers, policemen, nurses, doctors, cowboys or soldiers. Sometimes they will become their favorite animal! Some will emerge as leaders with willing followers in their pretending. It fun to watch!
As adults, sometimes this pretending gene in our DNA appears in our behaviors when trying to look good to others, or appear as if we are just like them so they will like us, as well as those occasions when we want others to follow in our ways we will pretend to be something we are not. “Fake it ‘til you make it” is not in the vocabulary of God’s Kingdom work. In the end, it is fruitless. Truth has a way of rising to the top of every situation. When truth is revealed, we look foolish in our pretense.
Paul sees pretending as fruitless and hurtful in the mission to help others know and follow Jesus. Paul is not perfect and readily admits his imperfections. So, when he sees another revered leader caught up in pretense, Paul calls him out. Know that Paul has great respect for Peter, the called and sent apostle who knew Jesus, walked with Him and learned from Him. So, Paul reminds him that there is no reason to pretend to be someone you are not. Our relationship with Jesus Christ is central to our lives! Our relationship with Him bears the fruits of His character forming in us. Our relationship with Jesus sets us right with God. There is no other relationship that can do that! Our relationship with Jesus forms all other healthy, loving, relationships that are true and right, and pleasing to God.
Paul loves and cares for Peter enough to confront him. This coming together saved their relationship because of the relationship they both had with God through Jesus Christ, His Son. Relationships built on Jesus bear all kinds of fruit in our lives! Love is central. God is love. Love God. Love Each Other. Jesus commanded it. Stop the hypocrisy, pretending, becoming chameleons who change colors to match the scenery. Be who we say we are—believers in Jesus who behave like him more and more. We are not perfect, admit it. But we are perfectly forgiven, set free from hypocrisy, bound by others’ expectations. That is a prison that is hard to escape!
Here is the secret, Paul says, “Christ in us!” Jesus lives IN all who believe in Him. Follow Jesus who is central to living free lives from the sin of pleasing others.
Galatians 2, The Message
What Is Central?
1-5 Fourteen years after that first visit, Barnabas and I went up to Jerusalem and took Titus with us. I went to clarify with them what had been revealed to me. At that time I placed before them exactly what I was preaching to the non-Jews. I did this in private with the leaders, those held in esteem by the church, so that our concern would not become a controversial public issue, marred by ethnic tensions, exposing my years of work to denigration and endangering my present ministry. Significantly, Titus, non-Jewish though he was, was not required to be circumcised. While we were in conference we were infiltrated by spies pretending to be Christians, who slipped in to find out just how free true Christians are. Their ulterior motive was to reduce us to their brand of servitude. We didn’t give them the time of day. We were determined to preserve the truth of the Message for you.
6-10 As for those who were considered important in the church, their reputation doesn’t concern me. God isn’t impressed with mere appearances, and neither am I. And of course these leaders were able to add nothing to the message I had been preaching. It was soon evident that God had entrusted me with the same message to the non-Jews as Peter had been preaching to the Jews. Recognizing that my calling had been given by God, James, Peter, and John—the pillars of the church—shook hands with me and Barnabas, assigning us to a ministry to the non-Jews, while they continued to be responsible for reaching out to the Jews. The only additional thing they asked was that we remember the poor, and I was already eager to do that.
11-13 Later, when Peter came to Antioch, I had a face-to-face confrontation with him because he was clearly out of line. Here’s the situation. Earlier, before certain persons had come from James, Peter regularly ate with the non-Jews. But when that conservative group came from Jerusalem, he cautiously pulled back and put as much distance as he could manage between himself and his non-Jewish friends. That’s how fearful he was of the conservative Jewish clique that’s been pushing the old system of circumcision. Unfortunately, the rest of the Jews in the Antioch church joined in that hypocrisy so that even Barnabas was swept along in the charade.
14 But when I saw that they were not maintaining a steady, straight course according to the Message, I spoke up to Peter in front of them all: “If you, a Jew, live like a non-Jew when you’re not being observed by the watchdogs from Jerusalem, what right do you have to require non-Jews to conform to Jewish customs just to make a favorable impression on your old Jerusalem buddies?”
15-16 We Jews know that we have no advantage of birth over “non-Jewish sinners.” We know very well that we are not set right with God by rule-keeping but only through personal faith in Jesus Christ. How do we know? We tried it—and we had the best system of rules the world has ever seen! Convinced that no human being can please God by self-improvement, we believed in Jesus as the Messiah so that we might be set right before God by trusting in the Messiah, not by trying to be good.
17-18 Have some of you noticed that we are not yet perfect? (No great surprise, right?) And are you ready to make the accusation that since people like me, who go through Christ in order to get things right with God, aren’t perfectly virtuous, Christ must therefore be an accessory to sin? The accusation is frivolous. If I was “trying to be good,” I would be rebuilding the same old barn that I tore down. I would be acting as a pretender.
19-21 What actually took place is this: I tried keeping rules and working my head off to please God, and it didn’t work. So I quit being a “law man” so that I could be God’s man. Christ’s life showed me how, and enabled me to do it. I identified myself completely with him. Indeed, I have been crucified with Christ. My ego is no longer central. It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God. Christ lives in me. The life you see me living is not “mine,” but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I am not going to go back on that.
21 Is it not clear to you that to go back to that old rule-keeping, peer-pleasing religion would be an abandonment of everything personal and free in my relationship with God? I refuse to do that, to repudiate God’s grace. If a living relationship with God could come by rule-keeping, then Christ died unnecessarily.
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION—
Can I declare like Paul, “I have been crucified with Christ. My ego is no longer central.”
Does my behavior match my answer? How?
You are God and I am not. Jesus came to set us right with You. I believe that and accept that He did exactly that. I am now redeemed and free to please only You. May my life reflect who is living now in me, which is you, dear Jesus! May no pretense enter my relationships. Help me to love like you love me, unconditionally, full of grace and mercy with complete truth. My relationship with you is the most important relationship of life. You are life! Help me to keep it simple and central to my behavior. Help me to bear the fruits of your character growing in me.
In Jesus Name, For Your Glory, Amen