“When Peter came to Antioch, I told him face to face that he was wrong… I corrected Peter in front of everyone.” The Apostle Paul confronted the Apostle Peter on a matter of hypocrisy. This was not just any run-of-the-mill hypocrisy. What Peter was doing was totally out of sync with the gospel that they both proclaimed: that forgiveness of sins in Jesus Christ is for all people, Jew and Gentile, whom both together make up Christ’s Church. Out of fear of his fellow Jews, Peter began withdrawing from his Gentile brothers in Christ. That stinking fear will get us every time. At the heart of every hypocrite is a spirit of fear that keeps him/her in bondage to the wishes of others.
Whereas Peter was deepening into the world of learned helplessness and terminal niceness, Paul chose to operate in the world of seeing all things through the lenses of the gospel and confronting that which had nothing to do with it. Please note that Paul rebuked Peter, and not every single person who came along who didn’t agree with him. They were both part of the apostles’ fraternity, and each had both a right and responsibility to confront and rebuke when needed within that fellowship.
I live in Mid-West America. We, like Peter, suffer from the malady of sometimes being too nice for our own good. If we aren’t careful, we can be pleasant and affable to people to their face, but then turn around and speak ugly words and do our own thing behind someone’s back. Our hypocrisy is born of the fear that we might hurt someone’s feelings. But we need to grab ahold of the fact that our hypocrisy hurts God’s feelings, and he will call us to account for our fearful ways. God does not want us hiding our true feelings, but bringing them into the light of the gospel so that the church can be built up and thrive in grace.
Holy God, you desire grace and truth in all relationships. Help me to speak with boldness, in a spirit of mercy and integrity, so that there will be growth and spiritual fruit in all of my relationships through Jesus Christ my Lord. Amen.