10 May 2018

Welcome to Thursday’s Podcast.  Our reading today is Galatians 2: 11-14

REFLECTION:

In today’s passage we see Paul and Peter, named here as Cephas have a huge showdown. Paul states ‘I opposed to him to his face, because he stood condemned…’

Why?

Here’s the issue: Peter is visiting Paul’s missionary base – the church in Antioch. Things are fine and Peter is getting stuck into life in the Antioch church. In yesterday’s podcast we learned that Paul and Barnabas had been given the ‘right hand of fellowship’ – the green light to work among the Gentiles and the recognition that the good news of the Gospel means that Christians are not required to observe Jewish laws. So the fact that Peter is sharing food is a big deal. It’s really significant. In the New Testament eating with people is ways of showing you accept them and to Jewish people among Jews who converted to Christianity – food was a contentious topic. But as some officials arrive from Jerusalem (sent by James most probably) and report to Peter of opposition facing the Jewish Christian converts because of their association with Gentiles, both he and James’ delegates begin to distance themselves.

Paul sees the red mist. He has observed a personal inconsistency in Peter’s behaviour and it’s causing real issues – Peter’s withdrawal from the church – probably refusing to eat a meal because it hasn’t been prepared the ‘right way…’ has the potential to undermine the ‘right hand of fellowship’.

There’s much I could say in this podcast about this particular issue. Theologians have a field day with the theology Paul reveals in his ‘do’ with Peter but I’m interested in why Paul chooses to confront Peter.

Disciples are called to confront. I wouldn’t suggest this is the best example – for example, Jesus tells us in Matthew 18:15 that if we see someone in ‘sin’ then we are to go to that person and talk to them. If that doesn’t work, take a friend and if that still doesn’t work then take it to the church.

In this passage Paul short circuits all that – he challenges, confronts Peter to his face.

Let’s think about this for a moment. Do you like conflict? I don’t… I’ve learned that you can’t avoid it. You really can’t.

If one avoids conflict – you can find yourself withdrawing from people, as Peter does in this passage.

While conflict can seem scary and at times avoiding it can seem like the best, pain free option – in the long term it doesn’t really help.

Why?

If unity is important and we’re called in Ephesians 4:3 to keep the bond of peace, then conflict is a way of keeping that God given bond of peace.

It seems a complete paradox. How can confronting someone as Paul did keep peace? Choosing silence is the way forward. Sure, we need to exercise wisdom but there’s a bigger picture: Patrick Lencioni says that conflict builds trust. It clears the air, removes the rubbish that can build up between people. It chooses to value relationship – it says I value you to such a degree that I will say the awkward thing in love. Brene Brown, an academic and writer, says that conflict is about connection. It places value on that other person. When we choose not to confront, we choose not to connect.

Paul loves people too much to NOT say something to Peter.

If unity is something we’re called to – then we need to ask the Lord to help us (we heard this yesterday) to develop tough skins and soft hearts. So often it’s the other way round.

Do you need to have that conversation today? If so, remember this: conflict isn’t the same as confrontation. Conflict is about connection – choose connection.

PRAYER:

Lord, I pray for us today. That we may be people of unity and people of connection. Help us Lord, with those tricky conversations – that through it we may shine your light and grace.

Amen

READING: Galatians 2:11-14

When Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray.

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?