September 23, 2003
To the Editor of the Wesleyan Christian Advocate
Peter and Paul
Paul honors the Jew above all else except one thing: he will not on their account dishonor the gentiles, for he is Christ to them, as Jesus' younger brother, and doing the same thing with the gentiles that Jesus did with the Jews. Jesus tried to be a good Jew. He never sought contact with gentiles and responded only when they were willing to approach him, a Jew, with some request. He treated the gentile as a Jew would, at a distance, and he did it in order to be one with his people, the Jews. Now Paul is going to do the same thing, but in reverse, for now, while he always honors the Jews first, he will never offend the Gentile. He is to the gentiles as Jesus was to the Jews. For he is serving Christ as his young brother who has been sent to rescue the gentiles, even as his older brother, Jesus, did his best to rescue the Jews. For the sake of Christ and with the absolute faith of Abraham Paul gave up the deal between Moses and God and took in perfect faith the gift of God in the spirit and in Christ. Therefore he rejoiced in his sufferings and counted them nothing in comparison with the riches in Christ.
Peter accepts Paul's idea and sits with the gentiles, remembering that Jesus touched the unclean and did not afterwards wash his hands. Peter, the captain appointed by Jesus himself, acknowledges the freedom and acceptability of the gentile Christian. It hardly behooves us United Methodist to make "improvements" for what Peter bound and loosened on earth, Jesus bound and loosened in heaven.
The importance of this for us today is simple and profound. We must proclaim the freedom of the conscience of the gentile Christian (see Acts 15) and cast him or her to the care of the Holy Spirit and do it with the resolute faith of St. Francis when he gave up his clothes and even the protection of his family name and walked out of the city utterly naked to whatever fate it was that God would have for him. We United Methodists are called to organize and direct this movement and to show the world what faith is really like. Let's just do it! Let's just give God a real chance with our utter faith in Paul's conception of Christ as acknowledged and ratified by Peter and the disciples and the Holy Spirit. For whom Christ has made free that person is free indeed.
Philip McPherson Rudisill