Paul calls Peter out on his behavior. Peter was acting one way before the Gentiles and another before the Jews. “Keeping up appearances.”
Peter was the first one God sent to the Gentiles. Remember the story where he was on the rooftop and God let down a sheet. “What God has made clean, do not call common” (Acts 10:15). God told Peter through that vision and its walking it out shortly thereafter the He considered the Gentiles acceptable unto Him too. In fact, in Peter’s encounter before the Gentiles had even completed anything more than accepting the gospel as truth, the Holy Spirit descended on them. “Surely no one can stand in the way of their being baptized with water. They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have” (Acts 10:47). No circumcision, no converting to Judaism, no promise to adhere to the law. None of that was required for this family to be accepted into God’s family.
Peter was also on the Jerusalem council when Paul contested the issue of circumcision for the Gentiles. All were in agreement that this was not a requirement for their salvation. They were given some standards for holy living but were NOT told they had to adhere to the law.
Peter also, probably more than any other apostle, understood Jesus’ forgiveness. We don’t read of Peter coming back to Jesus and asking for forgiveness for his actions of denying Him. We hear of Jesus forgiving him completely and restoring him. We also don’t read of Peter going to the temple to make a sacrifice for forgiveness of his sin. Peter repented privately in prayer, and probably to his fellow disciples during the three day wait, and received an unconditional pardon for his sin.
But now Peter, because of appearance sake, tried to side with those who would put conditions on the new Gentile believers. Peter didn’t believe in those conditions but to save face pretended he did. Peter’s two faced behavior not only resulted in an issue between himself and the Gentile brothers, but also began to corrupt the other Jewish believers with whom he associated. They began to separate themselves from the Gentile believers just as Peter did.
Paul rightly called him out on this to his face and publicly. His behavior was inexcusable. It was damaging to God’s family. It broke Jesus’ new commandment; “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Can you imagine being one of those new Gentile believers who was one day best buddies with Peter, then the next, Peter wouldn’t even talk to you? I wonder if they thought they had done something wrong or somehow offended Peter. Did they try and ask him about this change? Did he share the reason behind it? Did he try and “encourage” them to become circumcised?
This is an excellent example of the importance of “walking your talk” and “being real.” Paul was a BIG proponent and an inspirational example of this appropriate attitude. When Paul was against the Christians he was ALL in. He didn’t do things halfway. When he met Jesus and became an apostle for Jesus he was just as committed to living out every day what he was teaching.
I need to work on this in my life too. My biggest issue is acting in love and not in frustration. I know I’ve shared this area with you several times and prayed about it more times than I can count! But I still have to be brought back to it and recommit when I begin finding myself, or others point out to me, acting grumpy. This week I had to do a preemptive apology. I have a horrible case of poison oak and it wasn’t getting better with topical ointments so I had to take steroid treatment instead. Steroids tend to make me grumpy so I apologized in advance and gave my husband permission to call me on my stuff if he saw it happening. I think being aware, asking for advance forgiveness, following the directions more closely, and especially giving the issue to God has made a HUGE difference in how this course of treatment is going. So far so good!
Father God, thank You for helping me maintain my cool. Thank You for providing me the opportunity to care for my husband. I have learned MANY lessons along the way. The biggest one is how to be a loving wife. It makes a BIG difference in our home when I act out of love. I know I still have times I get frustrated, especially on “rabbit days” where I’m hopping up every minute or so to answer another call from him. But You have even worked with my heart to spend more time just being in his presence so he doesn’t have to call out for me. I don’t enjoy being stuck in the bedroom for hours at a time but I have learned to cherish those hours spent with him there. Thank You for that change of attitude. Continue to grow me in love, not only for my husband’s sake but for mine and all others I interact with in my life. Let me be a living example for you and make my walk ALWAYS (or as close as I can ever get) match my talk.