Galatians 2:11-14 :
But when Peter came to Antioch, I resisted him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before some people came from James, he ate with the Gentiles. But when they came, he drew back and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision. And the rest of the Jews joined him in his hypocrisy; so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy. But when I saw that they didn’t walk uprightly according to the truth of the Good News, I said to Peter before them all, “If you, being a Jew, live as the Gentiles do, and not as the Jews do, why do you compel the Gentiles to live as the Jews do?
In United States culture, confronting someone often is treated as something unacceptable. It’s as if the proper thing to do is let everyone be who they are and don’t “impose your views on someone else.” Sometimes, I believe confrontation is treated as a bigger sin than adultery.
Now either the culture is wrong, or the Bible is.
Paul, here, gives himself as an illustration of good behavior as he confronted Peter. This is something we need to carefully consider. It may have seemed harmless at the time but Peter was actually misleading other Christians.
Not unlike our culture today, Peter was giving in to the pressure of his peers and doing something in front of them that he would not have done if they weren’t there. He was confusing the Gentile Christians by going along with the Jewish ones that were judging Peter by who he was eating with. Peter acted like he wasn’t the sort of Jewish Christian who would eat with the Gentiles even though that’s exactly what he had been doing before they came. You can imagine how confusing this probably was to the new Gentile Christians.
Our society today gives us plenty of pressure to conform as do many of our churches. We see here that honesty is the only proper thing to do, especially when it is concerning something that affects the gospel. In this case, the hypocrisy was causing some Gentile believers to wonder if Peter actually believed that they should be following the law after they became Christians. Paul knew that the fact was that a little law spoils grace. Grace must be absent of law as law must be absent of Grace. When you come to God by grace you are not expected to pay. When you come by law, you must pay. There is no mixing! A little law means you are going to have to pay and grace is destroyed.
Notice how Paul confronts Peter. He said he did it “to his face” and “before them all.” Now that isn’t politically correct is it? Paul was clearly thinking of the gospel and how much this precious truth needed to be protected. It needed to be maintained for those who would be confused and be tempted to wander from it. Paul was not thinking of the “great men of the Church” here. He was concerned about the believers who were being affected by the hypocrisy.
He was bold and wanted to quickly stunt the growth of this disease and he did in the face and out loud! That is how we must defend our one gospel. There is only one and it is easily corrupted.
I am learning that the way to lose concern over your confrontation is to remember the silent ones we are actually defending. The people who hurt when we are hypocritical are usually in greater danger than the ones for whom we are attempting to put on a show. This is a simple way that almost anyone can be a true hero. Stand up for the truth for the sake of those without a voice! I am thinking of millions of small voices that have been aborted in the world. I am also thinking about the persecuted Christians like the ones in Afghanistan, Iraq, China and the Sudan. Confrontation may make us look bad to some, but there are those whose lives will be protected if we speak the truth.
Lastly, it should be clear that Peter is not a pope. He’s just a guy who God made a leader in the Church and a writer of the Bible. We are all very important to Jesus. He died for all of us. Notice that Peter sinned after he had the Holy Spirit. Notice how Peter always comforts us in regard to forgiveness because he kept stumbling! We all stumble and we all continue in forgiveness when we confess our sins to God.