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The Unity of the Gospel
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Galatians 2:1–14; 1 Corinthians 1:10–13; Genesis 17:1–21; John 8:31–36; Colossians 3:11
July 15, 2017

What seemed like a simple and heartfelt gesture actually made big news in Great Britain. A few weeks ago after the Grenfell Tower fire—a 24-story building that went up in flames and killed about 80 residents—Queen Elizabeth II and her grandson made a visit to a crisis center. The unannounced tour was a deeply emotional visit for William and the Queen. As Prince William and his grandmother listened to distressing stories from the family members of victims, one 78-year-old woman told about trying to find her husband who was trapped in an elevator during the fire. [1]

The moment so touched Prince William that he embraced the grieving woman. It was an appropriate gesture of comfort, except that it broke royal protocol. Historically, the public has only been permitted, on occasion, to shake hands with the royal family. A couple years ago basketball star LeBron James put his arm around Kate Middleton, the duchess of Cambridge, while posing for a photo shoot. It raised eyebrows as did Michelle Obama who hugged the queen in 2009. One etiquette expert explains, “Americans are much more tactile than we Brits… You’d have thought they’d have learned by now.” [2]

In this week’s Sabbath school lesson we continue our journey through Galatians where the apostle Paul holds the gospel standard high above social etiquette. Not that the missionary to the Gentiles suggests rudeness—just the opposite. Local Jews were trying to convince new Gentile Christians that they must follow Mosaic laws in order to walk the straight and narrow way. To boost their argument, they attempted to pull Peter into the melee. Didn’t this famous apostle step back from eating with Gentiles when his Jewish friends showed up for a visit?

Paul had already taken Peter to task over his hypocritical behavior because it was inconsistent with the gospel message that all followers of Christ are saved by grace and not by works of the law. The custom of Jews segregating themselves from Gentiles was mostly a bucket of human tradition. There is no need for an uproar between Jewish and Gentile believers. It was only an attempt by the “etiquette experts” of Jewish customs who made a ruckus.

The gospel lays a foundation for appropriate interaction between those of different nationalities, races, genders, and socio-economic status: “There is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all” (Colossians 3:11).

~ cr

[1] http://people.com/royals/prince-william-hugs-london-fire-victim/

[2] https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2014/12/the-rules-for-touching-british-royals/383616/