When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in front of them all, “You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs? Galatians 2:14 (NIV).
This would have been an uncomfortable scene. Paul and Barnabas were with Peter and some Jewish believers who lived in Antioch. Peter had taken to heart God’s command to love all people, yet, in the presence of Jewish strangers, perhaps he felt meek. He had been raised a Jew, had observed the Jewish laws and customs for most of his life. He believed in the history and culture of being part of God’s chosen people, and he well-understood his unique position as Jesus’ best friend and witness to how God truly redeemed Israel.
Even knowing all that, he messed up. He agreed with the locals that followers of Jesus should observe the Jewish laws and customs. After all, the promise had come from the Jews, and Jesus Himself had been a Jew. It even seems understandable, doesn’t it? To better serve Him, shouldn’t followers of Jesus have to live under the same codes and traditions that Jesus did?
That kind of alluring deception ensnared Peter so much that it took a strong-willed traveling evangelist to call him up short on it. Putting any custom ahead of Jesus would lessen faith in Him, and would distract people from putting their full trust in Christ alone. It would send conflicting messages about the true nature of salvation, namely that it is complete; there is nothing more we need to do to gain it. Jesus already did everything.
So it would have been uncomfortable to be in the room when Paul called out Peter. Would there be conflict? Would there be angst? How would the leader of the church respond to the chiding from the church’s former lead persecutor?
How do you respond to rebuke? Do you listen and consider what is said, or do you immediately assume a defensive posture, looking for ways to justify yourself? Occasionally, we are the ones being rebuked; occasionally, we are the ones delivering the rebuke. What’s needed in both situations is faith in Christ. Faith in His saving grace; faith that He endures all things with us.
Sometimes you’re the windshield; sometimes you’re the bug. No matter what situation we’re in, we need to remember that we’re sinners like everyone else. And, like everyone else, we’re constantly, deeply in need of the only forgiveness that lasts, especially when giving or receiving correction. Both Peter and Paul understood this.
For further reading: Acts 10:28, Galatians 2:15
Lord, forgive my sins; help me to wisely receive rebuke, and to wisely deliver loving rebuke when we need to.
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