Freedom in Confrontation: In your face and all that

I have a wild imagination.

Every time I read our passage of Scripture today I picture the Apostle Paul as a boxer (in full getup) yelling, “In Yo’ Face, Peter!”

I am sorry if I have tainted the Word for you with my imagination. ūüėČ

Remember the backdrop from our previous days of study – false brothers, both Peter and Paul entrusted by God with the Gospel, along with the leaders of the Jerusalem church, Barnabas, Titus, and others. And awesome, huge, growing fellowship, not without their issues.

Let’s read Galatians 2:11-14:

But¬†when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him¬†to his face, because he stood condemned.¬†12¬†For before certain men came from James,¬†he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing¬†the circumcision party.¬†13¬†And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy.¬†14¬†But when I saw that their¬†conduct was not in step with¬†the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas¬†before them all, ‚ÄúIf you, though a Jew,¬†live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?‚ÄĚ

“…I opposed him to his face…”

So, you can see where I’m coming from.

The Greek root word for opposed in the ESV translation of Galatians 2:11, above, is transliterated anthistémi. Translations include: oppose, resist, withstand, or take a stand against.

I am sure that Paul did not take this lightly. Paul’s letters in the New Testament consistently reference his constant prayer, his conviction, yes, but his concern for reasonableness, discernment, and great affection for fellow believers in Christ.

Still, at some point, Paul decided it was time to speak up, it was worth speaking up. Peter was being incongruent in the faith and while this is a big deal for all believers (walking what we talk, and talking what we walk), it is a massive deal for leaders and teachers of the faith, those of us with influence over others.

Peter ate with Gentiles, fellowshipped with Gentiles, reached Gentiles, after a vision given him by God (Acts 10:9-16, Acts 11:2-9) and then, in certain company – namely, pushy, Judaizer company – made a conscious or unconscious decision to separate himself from the Gentiles. Paul accurately called this hypocrisy.

Oh goodness. We have been there. We are all hypocrites. It’s just true. In some way, we have not managed to walk the talk or talk the walk. Let’s just confess that here and now.

But we also have all been called upon by God to help a brother out, to speak up when our fellow brother or sister in Christ has fallen prey to Satan’s temptation of putting on the mask, being different than who God made them to be and who they are in Christ, for a certain select group of people.

It’s never easy.

How do we do confrontation well?

First,

Ask – is this person a believer?

Or am I expecting believer behavior from an unbeliever? The Bible tells us that we can’t expect righteousness from the unrighteous. It’s not judging the unbeliever; it’s actually a measure of grace. If you work with someone that isn’t a believer, why are we surprised that person wants their way, that there may be something underhanded happening, or they are gossiping?

But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. 19 I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification. Romans 6:17-19

We aren’t better as believers (certainly not!), but we should know better. We have a moral compass known as Christ working in us, when the rest of the world, who doesn’t know Christ, will not have that moral compass. We will confront believers and unbelievers differently with the Truth and Love found in the Word.

Ask – what kind of relationship do I have with this person?

It’s sooooo tempting to point out incongruence and injustice at every turn, whether directly or indirectly. Our internal justice radar goes crazy and we naturally want to see what is right. However, relationship always matters more than right.

Paul had an actual relationship with Peter. They were in similar roles and dealing with similar questions and struggles. They had conversed about said struggles on more than one occasion. Paul didn’t just walk up to a stranger known as Peter at temple and say, “Dude, get it together. You’re excluding people. It’s totally wrong and you should be defrocked.” There was a relationship there long before there was a confrontation.

Ask – is this a blanket of love or boxing gloves?

I’m partial to cheese today, but it feels appropriate with Peter’s history. It’s really just a nemonic device to remember that we should always enter confrontation, speaking up, opposition, disagreements, and difficult discussion with humility. Am I speaking the Truth in Love? That brings real freedom.

Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. Ephesians 4:15-16 

This is how God designed confrontation – wrapped in a crazy amount of love. Jesus, Himself, confronted Peter in the Gospels, as well as others, more than once, but it’s only as effective as the love between brothers.

Jesus loves us so much that He died for us. Nothing can separate us from His love. He can say anything and everything to us, because He wraps everything in love, always seeking our freedom from the bondage of whatever is holding us in its grip.

Paul chased freedom for Peter. He loved him enough to speak face-to-face, man-to-man, brother-to-brother. He didn’t send a text or call him out on social media. He loved with honor, care, and genuine concern, even when it was uncomfortable.

Freedom in confrontation – learning together, one day at a time.


Discussion questions:

Have you ever had to confront someone? Was it the right thing to do? What could you have done differently?

How does God bring healing in the midst of and after confrontation?

What things matter enough to confront a friend or family member about?

Freedom from my ideas: You can’t make this stuff up


My Dad likes to fake you out.

“Watch out! There’s a spider there.”

“Look out! Don’t fall off the ledge.”

“Whoa, whoa, I’m going to drop this cup…”

It’s rarely true. He’s silly. It’s his way of making you smile, helping you step out of the seriousness of life to laugh for a moment (and to distract me from technology, which he thinks I spend far too much time on. It’s a blog, Dad. They call it a b-l-o-g.) He’s actually really great, most of the time. ūüėČ

Paul wants the Galatians to know that the Word he preached to them was very different, far removed from the other “gospels” they have heard and are currently hearing and submitting to. He’s not playing them. Being silly has its time and place, but Paul wants the Galatians to know that trading in one True Gospel for another is far from funny.

Read Galatians 1:11-12 below or in your Bibles:

11 For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel. 12 For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. 

“…the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel.”

In essence: I can’t make this stuff up.

This is Truth with a capital T. The Greek here is kata anthr√≥pon or not from humans, whoever those humans might be, no matter how classy or well spoken, no matter your relationship to them – the True Gospel comes from God and God alone.

Isaiah 55:8-9 tells us a little about the way God thinks and why we might make some stuff up to make ourselves feel better:

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.

But listen, even Isaiah 55 starts with this invitation in verse one:

Come, everyone who thirsts,
    come to the waters;
and he who has no money,
    come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
    without money and without price.

We may not understand everything God is doing, but letting Him be in charge of what is Gospel and what isn’t is always to our benefit. God acknowledges that there will be mysteries, and we don’t have to fill in the gaps with explanations and suggestions. He will.

Look to the next verses of Galatians 1:13-24. Paul begins to remind the Galatians of his story, written by God across the span of Paul’s life thus far. This is to remind the Galatians of the authority and authenticity he has in sharing the Gospel from that road to Damascus day onward.

13 For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it. 14 I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers. 15 But when God, who set me apart from my mother‚Äôs womb and called me by his grace, was pleased 16 to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, my immediate response was not to consult any human being. 17 I did not go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went into Arabia. Later I returned to Damascus.

18 Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Cephas and stayed with him fifteen days. 19 I saw none of the other apostles‚ÄĒonly James, the Lord‚Äôs brother. 20 I assure you before God that what I am writing you is no lie.

21 Then I went to Syria and Cilicia. 22 I was personally unknown to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. 23 They only heard the report: ‚ÄúThe man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.‚ÄĚ 24 And they praised God because of me.

He’s not making this stuff up. This isn’t a fairytale gospel. I think another point that Paul is making, intentionally or unintentionally is this:

We are meant to be livers of the Gospel, not keepers of the Gospel.

This is one way people know we are not making stuff up. Paul identifies to the Galatians that there are people who do a lot of talking about the way they think things should be and then there are people out there walking the walk of faith.
We’ll mess up, we’ll be inauthentic and incongruent at times, but Paul gives his testimony to the Galatians so that they can see that he isn’t just talking, he’s walking. Sometimes, we will be called to do this too.
This world has a million questions about God and the Gospel, just like we do, maybe more so. The Spirit leads and we share the simple Truth of Christ Jesus in His Word and also in His Work in our lives.
Living the Gospel doesn’t save us. Only Jesus saves. But this is God’s way – sending the Gospel, not from humans, but to humans, because He tenderly loves them enough to work in the visible, you and me.
I can’t make this stuff up. ūüėČ
Discussion questions:

What unknowns or questions do you have for God? Some of my unknowns include –

How does the Trinity work exactly? What is the deal with souls when we die and are waiting for Jesus’s return, how does that work? Babies – why would we ever lose them to death, to illness, to anything? What are yours?

When someone presents a different gospel to us, something that doesn’t seem quite right, how can we respond according to 1 Peter 3:15?

Set the world ablaze

Yesterday, we talked about making waves.

Today we’re going to talk about setting a blaze.

Read James 3:5-8, below:

So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things.

How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind,but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

Notice the connecting piece between our segment yesterday and what we are studying today. One tiny verse –

So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things.

Write that verse out somewhere if you can. What is the connection between the tongue and boasting? How does the tongue find trouble on it’s own sometimes without our help? Our friend, the tongue, needs to be steered or bridled.

James points out another reality – our tongues can also set the world ablaze. The Greek word for unrighteousness in our translation is adikias, from the root word adikia, meaning unrighteousness, but also injustice, and hurt. That hits the nail on the head. How is our tongue down right hurtful sometimes? Fires can be glorious and also destructive.

Let’s look at another passage that speaks similarly about waves and wind, selfish words, and growing out of them.

Ephesians 4:14-16:

…so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

We are not tossed by waves, but we are driven by the Holy Spirit and God’s Word. In Christ, we are not left to idle in a sea of doubt and chaos. We have Hope. Let us start a fire, a fire for Christ, firm in the Holy Spirit and the Word that we are given!

God’s Word says that 2 things ignite – truth and love. So we can ask ourself this question before we open our mouth…

Am I speaking truth in love?

It sounds too simple. But God knows that it’s just so easy for us to speak one without the other.

Am I speaking truth with no love?
Am I speaking love with no truth?

Brothers and sisters, if we are aiming for setting the world on fire for Christ, we are intended to speak both as one.

I fail miserably at this. Dear children, pick up your toys! Dear husband, plan a date night! So many necessary commands, that definitely speak truth. I unfortunately forget to include the love. It’s easy when we are in a conversation with a friend about their struggle with sexual sin to speak only love and care – “It’s ok! It’s no big deal!” – without the truth that they so desperately need in order to see Christ’s forgiveness and love.

Where do you have the hardest time sharing truth with love and love with truth?

We’re in this together. Reread James 3:8 and hear the comfort there…

but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 

Did you find it? Don’t blink or you’ll miss it. Dear friend, you are not the first, nor will you be the last, to struggle with tongue taming. It’s a daily work of sanctification. Christ’s mercy was given to us on the cross. It works in us every day, to set fires that point to His Life, rather than death and destruction. We will daily struggle with this, but it’s a good work, a good walk with our Savior who knows boundless grace.

Work that good Grace in us today, Lord. Truth in love and love in truth – we leave it at Your feet every day. Set some fires around us in Your name, for Your glory. Amen.

 

Discussion:

What areas of your life do you struggle with your tongue the most?

What examples can you point to of speaking the truth without love?

What examples can you point to of speaking love without the truth?

 

I hope you’ll join us for Good Gifts Live at its special time today, 2pm CST, on the I Love My Shepherd Facebook page. The topic for tonight is I Am Covered. Find out more tonight, and if you can’t be with us live, catch the archive tomorrow morning right here or on the I Love My Shepherd Youtube channel.