Paul is vehemently attacked by the Jewish Christians. Jewish Christians side with the Jews against one of their own. Why?
The inclusion of Gentiles without becoming a Jew is felt as a threat to their identity. That fear is worded in the rumors that Paul is convincing even Jews to stop practicing the law. This is false but it captures how they feel, their identity is being attacked.
They have idolized identity. They believe their value comes from identity. And identity needs borders, and borders separates.
Against this idolization of identity is Paul’s life built on belonging to Christ. He sees that identity cannot be the source of his life. His connection to Christ trumps identity. So Paul says, in many different places and in different wordings, “In Christ there is no Jew or Gentile.” This gives him openness to other identities and fluidity of his own identity. So he practices his Jewish vow and then walks down main street with his Gentile friend.
Practically speaking, that belonging gives him a ground to face the rumors with poise.
Secondly, he is ready to face persecution. The real threat of persecution is its attack on identity. But if identity is already held loosely, one is strong enough to endure with joy.
Let us become of community who finds his ground in belonging and not in mere identity.
- What identity did you adopt as a teenager? What identity did you reject?
- Where do you feel you belong? How do you practice remembering that you belong to God?