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As I wrote about the various “Words” and “Emotions” topics in this book, I found that the story of Paul confronting Peter from Galatians 2:11-14 kept popping up.
Just some background about that story. (For one thing, it wasn’t in the Bible story books when I was growing up. I had read several very detailed Bible story books many times over as a child and teenager. But I was an adult before I really knew that story. I’ve puzzled about that.)
Here’s the background:
In Galatians chapter 2, Paul “gossiped” (not) by telling the whole group of Galatian Christians—in a letter he was expecting to be passed around to other churches too—about a time he had rebuked Peter right in front of another large group of people.
He didn’t even follow the Matthew 18 process.
Paul found out that Peter, who used to eat and fellowship with the Gentile Christians, had stopped doing that when the intimidating and superior-seeming Jewish leaders came, and he even pulled other Jewish believers along with him to start snubbing their Gentile brothers and sisters. Paul didn’t hesitate to rebuke Peter immediately and soundly.
This is a crucial story in the life of the church, because, primarily, it drives home the point that Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians are equal before God; one is not more favored than the other, and Gentiles didn’t/don’t have to become Jews in order to become fully equal Christians (so important for establishing the early foundation of the Church!).
But there are several other important observations to make about it.
The first time I used this story in this third Untwisting Scriptures book was to talk about one type of scenario when someone might be accused of gossip but would not be gossiping. Here’s the excerpt (starting with the heading):
When they are teaching and explaining about right and wrong
When Paul wrote his letter to the people of the church of Galatia, he told an embarrassing story about Peter. Yes, that Peter. The apostle. And Peter wasn’t even there to defend himself when Paul was telling it.
But this story was vitally important and exactly pertinent to the truths Paul needed to emphasize to the Galatians: it wasn’t just that Peter had knuckled under to fear of man (he had) or that as a result he had acted hypocritically (he had), but in doing so, he was compromising the gospel of the free salvation of Jesus Christ by silently implying that anyone who wanted to come to Jesus first had to become a Jew.
This falsehood incensed Paul so much that not only did he rebuke Peter publicly, but he also wrote about it in a letter to those who were “not part of the problem or part of the solution” for Peter’s issues.
But the Galatians needed to understand gospel truths, and Paul was teaching and explaining important points about what the gospel really entails and how vital it is to live free of the bondage of the law. Paul was not gossiping.
Perhaps today’s pastors could do the same. Instead of ignoring the many stories about wrongdoing and even wickedness in the Christian world today, pastors could use these stories as examples for their congregations, to remind them that they cannot hide their sins from God, or to teach a larger truth about the nature of the gospel, as Paul did with his story about Peter.
I used the story again in the chapter about anger. Paul was an example of righteous anger when he became angry at Peter for refusing to interact with the Gentiles. He was “reacting” (because reaction is part of the definition of anger), but he reacted in a way that was controlled and beneficial, showing love to the people who were being scorned. This, as I elaborate in that chapter, is the definition of “righteous anger.”
And this same story gets referenced one more time in this book, in one of the chapters about fear. In my lengthy discussion of the Biblical term “fear of man,” which I call “relationship fear,” I used Peter as an example of someone who succumbed to fear of man. Here’s the excerpt (again, starting with the heading):
Fear of being rebuked (or even scorned) by those in a perceived higher position (especially in front of others)
This type of “fear of man” boils down to “fear of shame.” Shame is a very powerful motivator to force compliance in controlling cult situations. (If God’s people are willing to stand against fear of shame because our awe/reverence fear of Him is greater, then we can move forward for His Kingdom with far greater strength and vision. But that’s a whole lot easier to say when you’re not in the middle of it.) . . .
This is what Galatians 2:12 tells us about that fear that Peter himself experienced.
Until certain people came from James,
[Peter] had been eating with the Gentiles.
But when they arrived, he stopped doing this
and separated himself [from the non-Jews]
because he was afraid
of those who were pro-circumcision [the Judaizers].
Peter’s fear of being shamed by the powerful Judaizers led him to shame the non-Jewish Christians for their non-Jewishness. But because Peter was a leader, and because the equality of all believers in Jesus Christ was so crucial, Paul rebuked him directly and publicly for allowing this fear to lead him to these hypocritical actions, rather than being driven by fear of God, love of God, and love of others.
Yes, there’s a lot there.
I didn’t delve into the “problem” of Paul not following the so-called church discipline process of Matthew 18 with Peter, because, well, that’s not what this book was about. But don’t be surprised if it shows up in a future book in the Untwisting Scriptures series. That Galatians 2 story has a lot to teach us.
If you’d like to comment below on this story and the shocking—shocking, I tell you—dereliction of duty Paul showed in not following Matthew 18 with Peter, I’d love to read it.
In the meantime, don’t forget to get your free e-book of Untwisting Scriptures that were used to tie you up, gag you, and tangle your mind: Book 3 Your Words, Your Emotions. available only until November 9, 2021.
And let others know that they can download it too! I want to give away a lot of copies of it in the next few days!
Go here to download your free Guide, How to Enjoy the Bible Again (when you’re ready) After Spiritual Abuse (without feeling guilty or getting triggered out of your mind). You’ll receive access to both print and audio versions of the Guide (audio read by me). I’m praying it will be helpful.