But when Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him in public, because he was clearly wrong. Before some men who had been sent by James arrived there, Peter had been eating with the Gentile believers. But after these men arrived, he drew back and would not eat with the Gentiles, because he was afraid of those who were in favor of circumcising them. The other Jewish believers also started acting like cowards along with Peter; and even Barnabas was swept along by their cowardly action. Galatians 2:11-13 (GNT)
If you're anything like the rest of us, and like the disciple Peter, you can identify with the above passage from Paul's letter to the Galatians. Paul had just finished telling the recipients of this letter that some false Christians had been sent to the church (gentile church of Galatia) in order to spy upon Paul and to say that he was not preaching what he was supposed to. Their purpose was to prevent the gentile believers from having the freedom in Christ that Paul preached and to become circumcised, thus following Jewish Law.
Paul goes on to say that this is wrong and that he even had to oppose Peter on this point. Peter, in essence, was caving into pressure from the Jewish leaders. He was afraid of their influence - does this sound anything like what Peter had done on the night Christ was arrested, later to be crucified?
Paul goes on to say that Peter acted like a "coward", as did the other Jewish believers.
I know all too well what it feels like when others put pressure on me for being a born again Christian. They try to make me do or say things that I know I should not. Of course, it isn't circumcision that trips me up! It's the little things like bad movies or TV shows, unwholesome language or gossip, and the like. I also know the sting of being criticized for being "good little Rita."
Why is being "good" and loving Jesus so hard to do?
I believe it's because we're essentially cowards who are afraid to stand up to a hostile world that threatens to chew us up and spit us out. Perhaps we all need a Paul to confront us and help us to see that living in the Light with freedom is a whole lot better than living in the dark as cowards.