The people heard it, and approved the doctrine, and immediately practiced the contrary. – Benjamin Franklin, The Way to Wealth

Are tribal rules really so dangerous? After all, some boundaries are healthy, and certain behaviors are inappropriate. Right? If I let go of the dos and don’ts in my faith, am I not compromising the Gospel?

Great question. Here’s a great answer: Tribal rules are not faith fundamentals. For example, “Jesus is God” is not a tribal rule – it’s a core belief. And when I say, “I am saved by grace through faith,” this is not a rule. It’s the foundation of the Gospel. That’s not what we are talking about. Tribal rules add to the fundamentals of faith. As a result, these rules undermine the simplicity of the Gospel.

For example, a theological tribal rule might require baptism as a means of salvation. A cultural rule might say you have to dress a certain way. A social rule might say you shouldn’t be friends with the “heathen.” Such rules add to the Gospel of grace. When you add to grace, you erase grace; and isolation takes its place.

Think about Peter. He was living this new life of freedom and relationships. In the Jewish culture, to share a meal with someone is to share God’s blessing with them, and Peter was eating with lots of non-Jews. But all of a sudden, he stopped and isolated himself from the Gentiles, essentially saying, “I take back the blessing of God.”

Paul caught wind of Peter’s vacillating, and he was not happy.

When [Peter] came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face because he stood condemned... he used to eat with the Gentiles. But... he began to draw back and separate himself... because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. (Galatians 2:11-12)

Reread that verse carefully. Peter’s ministry could have come to a stop right there and then because of his tribal rules and because he caved under the pressure of the legalists. Those religious rules outside the Gospel are dangerous, causing serious separation between us and those God wants to love through us.

I’m saying we let those rules go and cling only to the core of the Gospel. God is a God of unity. There is no room for separation in the realm of reconciliation.

Is there someone God is calling you to eat with today?

O Lord, by the power of Your Spirit, show me where I let my religious rules and the expectations of others separate me from those You love. Show me where I can reach beyond my rules and invite others into the dance today. Amen.