“When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face,
because he was clearly in the wrong.”
Thoughts… There was an elephant in the room, and someone needed to point it out. Never being one to shy away from difficult conversations, Paul was just the guy to do it. So he confronted Peter, the great Apostle, boldly, unequivocally, and publicly.
Peter had gotten caught up in trying to impress certain followers of Christ who were quite legalistic in their approach to faith. They were still following many of the Jewish customs, both in their daily lives and in their public worship. Peter, himself a preacher the Gospel of salvation by grace through faith to the Gentiles, now reverted back to his old ways, acting like one of the Jewish Christians right in front of the Gentile believers. This was hypocrisy pure and simple, and it sent the dangerous message to both the Jewish and Gentile believers that observance of the Law was still necessary to faith.
So Paul took Peter on, and rebuked him to his face for all to see and hear. Paul’s message was hard to hear, but the truth, and it was needed!
We would do well to learn from Paul how to have difficult conversations. Rather than being so “nice” that we allow destructive words or actions to slip under the radar, we must be lovingly courageous enough to confront with courageous love. There are times when so much is at stake that to avoid confrontation just to maintain a relationship or to keep the peace becomes sin on our part, and it will lead to untold damage in the lives of those who need to be directed by our words. Paul’s confrontation put his friendship with the Apostle Peter at risk, but more important than a friendship was the health, well being and doctrinal purity of the Antioch fellowship—not to mention the spread of the Gospel and the future growth of Christianity.
So how should one go about having these kinds of conversations? First, we need to make sure that what needs to be confronted rises to the level of a moral offense and is not merely a disagreement over personal preferences. Second, if possible, we need to have the conversation with the offending party in private. Third, the confrontation needs to be public if it has created a public perception that the wrong behavior is acceptable. Fourth, the conversation needs to be bold, but graceful, and done to bring about reformation and reconciliation. Finally, when we confront, our conversations need to be weighted toward solutions rather than focused only on criticism.
Difficult conversations should be rare, but when they are called for, we must be committed to speaking the truth in love rather than preserving the status quo. Someone’s eternity may be riding on it.
Prayer… Lord, give me the courage to love people enough to confront them when it is the only way that they will grow into the character of Christ. Help me to be ready to speak the truth in love, with humility, and always seasoned with grace.
One More Thing… “Truth demands confrontation; loving confrontation, but confrontation nevertheless.” — Francis Schaeffer