There is an almost heroic story of standing up for justice when the pressure is tough. When we know the right thing to do, and do not do it, only discomfort will shake us out of complacency. Otherwise we will be lethargic while we describe standing as a point of light instead of being it.
In the 1940’s there was a civil suit brought by a black family against a white family over farming rights in Alabama. The courage of the black plaintiffs must have been huge due to how things were in that era and state.
A crucial thing happened that is praiseworthy. The head white defendants referred to the other side as “Those people” and “Jim” or “Kathy”. The judge corrected him and ordered his side to address the other side respectfully and by their proper surnames. He also ruled on the side of the plaintiffs.
But where is the bad part? The judge was standing for justice, right?
We know that same judge by the name Governor George Wallace. He was a major proponent of segregation in Alabama in the civil rights era. Only much later in life after being humbled by the bullet by a would-be assassin would he repent. The basic sadness is that he bended his knee to the tide of his peers in living out of his life though he had ruled justly before.
Today we will look at someone who acted like Governor George Wallace for a moment and was rebuked for it: Peter.
Galations 2:11 But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood self-condemned; 12 for until certain people came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But after they came, he drew back and kept himself separate for fear of the circumcision faction. 13 And the other Jews joined him in this hypocrisy, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that they were not acting consistently 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 compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?”
I opposed him to his face
Okay, aaaaawkward! Sometimes we just need a hint on our blind spots, but when we are willfully taking the cowards way out of following the love and acceptance of Jesus while calling ourselves standard-bearers, black coffee is needed with no cream or sugar.
because he stood self-condemned
As we have seen in past blogs, Peter the rock chosen by The Rock was instrumental in bringing the news of God’s love in Christ to the gentiles. He had the Holy Spirit and the revelation that Christ would be a light to the gentiles. He had infallible truth but was living far from impeccably. “From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded” (Luke 12:48).
But after they came, he drew back and kept himself separate for fear of the circumcision faction.
We fear the law when we are speeding and we should. But the chief reason why we diminish our role of being a light in the social arenas, is fear of man. We can choose to not be afraid if we instead invite love in our lives through the gospel and keep inviting that love, in Jesus every day.
1 John 4:18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love.
Peter was on a journey on that experience like I hope I am. Like I hope you are. That day he was afraid of the punishment of not being at peace with those who wanted extra weight on the Others.
But when I saw that they were not acting consistently with the truth of the gospel
This gets to the heart of the matter if disciples are to change the world. The gospel is not a nice idea. It is not winning a debate. It is not at its summit based on who wins an election.
The gospel is the power of God to wholeness (Romans 1:17) in every way to the Jew and then to the Gentile. To live according to it, is to bring that out by word and deed to everyone we have contact with just like the Good Samaritan (Acts 10).
This is my last blog of Peter that is centered on the directly biographical passages but I want to end today on a high note.
2 Peter 3:14 “Therefore, beloved, while you are waiting for these things, strive to be found by him at peace, without spot or blemish; 15 and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation. So also our beloved brother Paul wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, 16 speaking of this as he does in all his letters. There are some things in them hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other scriptures.”
He swallowed his pride and saw Paul as an instrument of God’s rebuke and speaking in his second papal encyclical he puts Paul’s letters as scriptures. In some way, Peter turned this rebuke into his own turning point based on this incident and as we know, he lived in Rome for two major periods of his life after that. The second time he was even martyred there.
Whatever it is that is looking like a rupture in your life between God and unjust social pressure, turn your face into the wind. Only by being grounded in love as the truth in Jesus can we be all we are called to be.