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.
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, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?”
“…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?
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.
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?