When Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face. Galatians 2:11
At a roundtable discussion about reconciliation, one participant wisely said, “Don’t freeze people in time.” He observed how we tend to remember mistakes people make and never grant them the opportunity to change.
There are so many moments in Peter’s life when God could have “frozen” him in time. But He never did. Peter—the impulsive disciple—“corrected” Jesus, earning a sharp rebuke from the Lord (Matthew 16:21–23). He famously denied Christ (John 18:15–27), only to be restored later (21:15–19). And he once contributed to racial divisions within the church.
The issue arose when Peter (also called Cephas) had separated himself from the Gentiles (Galatians 2:11–12). Only recently he associated freely with them. But some Jews arrived who insisted that circumcision was required for believers in Christ, so Peter began avoiding the uncircumcised Gentiles. This marked a dangerous return to the law of Moses. Paul called Peter’s behavior “hypocrisy” (v. 13). Because of Paul’s bold confrontation, the issue was resolved. Peter went on to serve God in the beautiful spirit of unity He intends for us.
No one needs to remain frozen in their worst moments. In God’s grace we can embrace each other, learn from each other, confront each other when it’s necessary, and grow together in His love.
Lord, draw us close to You today, so that we may also be closer to each other. Protect Your church’s unity. Give us understanding where there is distrust. Heal us where we are divided.
Galatians 2 offers a compelling example of necessary confrontation. First, Paul’s confrontation of Peter was rooted on the foundation of the truth of the gospel. Paul chose to confront not because of personal dislike but out of love for the gospel. Paul recognized that Peter’s behavior—refusing to fellowship with those who were not obeying Old Testament ceremonial law—denied the good news that Christ’s victory, not ceremonial law, is the foundation for the believer’s new life in the Spirit (v. 21). Peter’s behavior denied the good news that in Christ there is equality among all believers. So Paul confronted, not to shame Peter but to restore the integrity of the faith community.
When bad behavior threatens the integrity of the Christian community’s witness to the good news, we too must confront—but always with a spirit of love that hopes for full restoration of fellowship.
Is there someone you need to confront in the spirit of love?