Thursday, May 10, 2012

Beware of Placing Affinity Above Truth

Really?  Really?  You were enjoying all the freedoms, but when some people from your past showed up, you caved and played the hypocrite.  And others are taking your example to do the same.  Why didn't you stand on what God himself made plain to you?

That's what I envision what Paul would have said to Peter had the confrontation in Antioch (Gal 2:11-14)  happened today.  Peter knew better.  He had been used by God to declare the gospel to a Gentile family in their home—formerly considered an unclean act (Acts 10:18)—and beheld the same bestowal of the Holy Spirit without the requirement of circumcision or work of the Law.  Now in Antioch and hobnobbing with the local Gentile population, he suddenly becomes sheepish and uncomfortable at the visitation of Christian Jews from Jerusalem, sent by James, an elder in the church.  His isolationism is noticed by the other Jewish brethren in Antioch, who follow his lead, with the result that Gentiles are beginning to wonder if they need to be following the Law.

If I wanted to put the most positive spin on the scenario, it appears that Peter was afraid of being a stumbling block to kinsmen who, though believing in Jesus as the Messiah, may not yet be so open to the abundant freedom found in Christ.  In an effort to be gracious to one group, he led even more into hypocrisy and error.  What really bothers me is that I have done the same type of thing.

How often have you and I not wanted to offend a weaker Christian and let the truth slide for the sake of unity, local social mores, or prospective witnessing through the relationship?  If we are honest, it happens.  We forget that the most loving thing to do is be honest and forthright without being arrogant or belligerent.  That is where we are to start.  People respect honest communication more than agreement.  Penn Jillette, famous magician and atheist, has stated on YouTube (see embedded video below) that he has more respect for Christians who are fundamentalist, rather than liberal, because the former are speaking from an objective position, while the latter deal in subjectivity and are ultimately condescending.

Christians tend to avoid confrontation either because they believe it is more loving to let things slide or consider disagreements to be a sign of disunity.  If something is wrong, it is wrong.  Say so, preferably in a kind way but harshly when needed.  Do not soften the blow of error.  It is natural, because we do not wish to admit the problem, though we know full well it exists even in us.  For instance, sin gets spoken of as a character flaw requiring personal introspection and behavior modification.  No savior is required here.  The proposed cure is a Jesus who is buddy, lover, therapist, or all three, having the goal of curing me of my character flaws and unmet desires.  How much better to open the scriptures and see what is said in context to address an issue.

We need to continue hearing and reading the living word of God, acquiescing to the Holy Spirit as he works in us, equipping us to live in truth and love.  Disagreements over practice will arise: these we handle graciously so that the weaker Christian might be strengthened and understand fully.  However, let us be wise in these matters and not discard the truth for the sake of maintaining a relationship.

1 comment:

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

How often I have been told I am "divisive." However, last month at the St. Louis Conference on Biblical Discernment, Keith Gibson, of the KC branch of Apologetics Resource Center, made the point that the one who has left orthodoxy is the divisive one.