14th Sunday after Pentecost | Read Galatians 2:11–14
We are going to consider another letter; this one remains attributed to the Apostle Paul, which he probably wrote while being in Ephesus… Now, this is important for you to know because it shows you evidence that Apostle Paul was handling many conflicts (in Ephesus, and Galatia, Asia Minor) at the same time and with the same purpose… which was, to help brothers and sisters in Christ to journey well, with unity not in their ability to agree but in the gift of unity in Christ. So yes, the Apostle Paul preached unity A LOT and conflict resolution for the glory of God.
It is also important to say that the church was able to endure the conflict because the church had leaders like the Apostle Paul who believe in the power of the Holy Spirit and was willing to hold people accountable, manage expectations and preach unity rather than the passive-aggressive behavior of some.
If you read the full book, letter of Galatians, you will quickly see that the church was divided over issues of following the law versus believing that Christians were saved by Grace alone… or in other words, in this letter, you will see that many leaders required non-Jewish Christians (Gentiles) to live by Jewish laws, missing the point of the Gospel message. This was an issue because the church in Galatia had forgotten that Jesus fulfilled the law and reconciled all who believe in him. They had forgotten that when people, the church trusted in Jesus as the Messiah, his life, death, and resurrection become theirs. They had forgotten that they were new creations, free from living by law alone, free from sacrifices and burn offerings. Free to love because they were loved first.
Today we are to read the story of how the Apostle Paul dealt with the hypocrisy of the Apostle Peter. And I say hypocrisy because Peter knew better… and Paul knew that Peter knew better…
See, the back story is this… Peter had a vision that Christians were not obligated to follow the Jewish food restrictions. This new directive was given to Peter in a vision found in the book of Acts chapter 10, verse 15 that says… “Do not call something unclean if God has made it clean.” Or in other words…. there is no kosher code for Christians. Christians should not be concerned with eating kosher foods and avoiding all others. Food restrictions are no longer binding, and Christians can eat from what was previously prohibited.
This is not to say that Paul made it rain on Peter’s parade… I say that because we know that Paul did not attack Peter for the sake of hurting him or tearing him down. Paul did not enjoy doing it or had any hidden motives or agenda. He (Paul) spoke the truth to Peter because Peter’s “conduct was leading others away from the Gospel… in this case, Barnabas, who was led astray by Peter’s hypocrisy. (See, Verse 13)
Now, knowing this, let us remember that Paul knew that iron sharpens iron. (Proverbs 27:17) So, he spoke the truth directly to Peter, in the presence of Peter and not with the aim to embarrass him or tear him down but to help the body, the church. Paul’s goal was to witness on behalf of the gentiles and help Peter not lose his ministry with the gentiles.
And this Church, this takes a great amount of courage. Why? Because many people find it much easier to say nothing… or to say something to others, not the person who actually needs to hear it…or say something with lots of passive-aggression, in the form of “Well I was just joking” or “the oh well I was just saying…”
So, the church know this… if you know, if you really know that the other person is not only wrong but is DOING wrong and that wrong is affecting other believers, you must say something, and you must have evidence like Paul did…
Church again, calling someone out in their hypocrisy takes a great amount of courage.
Both in the calling and in the accepting of it. Even Jesus called a lot of people hypocrites, demonstrating just how common hypocrisy really is and still is… Hypocrisy is far from a thing of the past. Hypocrisy is still rampant: on religious people, politicians, and people who are in positions of leadership.
We are to discover the need for courage and say something in the presence of those who are behaving or are saying something that is hypocritical… Church, let us not aim to rain on people parade, but don’t be afraid if you have to do it…
Now, on the other hand… what are we to do when someone calls you a hypocrite in the presence of others… Please know it is common to feel embarrassed or humiliated or retract yourself. Take your time, take courage. Not everything is lost. The first thing is to hold your anger, know that their call to hypocrisy comes from their point of view… Take it a strong criticism, rather than a conclusion…
Pay attention to these areas: have them done it before, have you heard before, perhaps from someone else… Is there someone you can talk to, other than your eco chamber (meaning our live-long cheerleaders)? Can you ask clarifying questions?
If you are called a hypocrite, not everything is lost. It is the beginning of a journey of self-discovery. Let me you about a story found in the book 2 Samuel chapter 16… that talks about a man name SHeMei… son of Gera…
This is to say… If you need to call someone (someone close to you, someone in your family a hypocrite), make sure that you are right beyond any doubt; there is nothing worst than calling an “innocent” guilty… And if you are the person being called out, be patient like David was while dealing with SHIMei of our lives… perhaps the Lord will see that you are being wronged and will bless you because of the convictions of others….