“Until certain people came from James, (Peter) had been eating with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he stopped doing this and separated himself because he was afraid of those who were pro-circumcision. And the rest of the Jews also joined with him in this hypocrisy, so that even Barnabas was led astray with them by their hypocrisy” (Galatians 2:12-13 NET).
Its interesting to note that Galatians 2:12 references “men” (ESV) or “persons” (NTE) to describe the associates of James listed here. While some Biblical versions refer to these individuals as “Jewish followers” (CEV) or “Gentile Christians” (TLB), the original language of this passage does not specifically identify them as followers of Christ.
Its possible that James was merely acquainted with these visitors. Or perhaps he sent them to Antioch so they could see first-hand evidence of the solidarity that existed among the members of that culturally and racially diverse congregation. Whatever the answer, these newcomers surely did not represent James’ view on the subject of unity between Jewish and non-Jewish believers within the church. In fact, their position was a misrepresentation of James’ view…
“…James stood and said …my judgment is that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. Instead, we should write and tell them to abstain from eating food offered to idols, from sexual immorality, from eating the meat of strangled animals, and from consuming blood” (Acts 15:13, 19-20 NLT).
Unfortunately, it appears these individuals influenced Peter into separating himself from those who did not share their common cultural background. Thus, Peter’s example provides another important insight for men and women of God today. While we may be challenged to relate to those who have little in common with us, it is an entirely different matter to intentionally exclude other Christians on that basis.
At best, Peter was manipulated by the opinions of those who were not followers of Jesus. Although Peter once took a courageous stand in defending the unity of Jewish and non-Jewish believers, perhaps he was worn down under the relentless pressure of those who opposed his position. If that was the case, then it was not the first time Peter compromised his beliefs in the face of pressure from others.
This reminds us of the need to prayerfully seek God’s assistance in maintaining the kind of attitude described for us in 1 John 2:10: “The one who loves his fellow Christian resides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him” (NET).