There once was a woman who looked at herself in the bedroom mirror. She was not happy with what she saw and said to her husband, ‘I feel horrible; I look old, fat and ugly. I really need you to pay me a compliment.’ The husband replied, ‘Your eyesight’s absolutely perfect.’ And then the fight started….. (Taken from here).
When it comes to fighting, we are most familiar with it in relation to our marriages. Granted, everybody argues every now and then, but when the word argument is said, most people think first about their spouse. The hardest time in a married couple’s relationship is the first year – some people say the first 7 years, but I figure most couples have either figured each other out by then or have split ways. But in that first year, when those first few arguments take place, many married couples think that their marriage is over. Some get divorced. Some go on living with each other in conflict for years. The rest figure out how to fight fair.
When it comes to sharing the truth of Jesus’ message with the world, conflict is part of the equation. As I stated yesterday, it’s hard to tell someone the truth – if they didn’t yet know the truth – without also implying that what they believe is wrong. And we hate being told we’re wrong. We’ll fight up and down, left and right to prove we’re right. So, it’s important that if we are going to share the truth with people, we understand that conflict will arise, and that we know how to handle that conflict. The key is learning how to fight fair. Voddie Baucham, in today’s lesson of The Ever Loving Truth, used Galatians 2:11-14 as an example of how to fight fair. Speaking of a situation that had occurred earlier, Paul tells the Galatians:
When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong. Before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray. When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter in front of them all, “You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?”
To understand this passage, you first have to understand that many Jewish Christians at this time were saying that if Gentiles wanted to enter the Christian faith, they must also take up the Jewish customs, especially circumcision. These people, called Judaizers, were mistaken in their approach to salvation, but understandably so. As Baucham puts it, men like Peter, who “had grown up as a Jew, then followed Judaism to its logical conclusion (accepting the promised Messiah, Jesus), might naturally assume that Gentiles must take the same route to salvation.” But Peter had been given a revelation straight from God saying that he was allowed to eat with Gentiles and to associate with them (see Acts 10), and when in the presence of only Paul and his crew, and the Gentiles, Peter gladly lived that way. But when the Judaizers arrived, Peter went back to his old ways and pushed the Gentiles to do the same. Paul confronted this hypocrisy to Peter’s face, in a public arena.
There are a few good lessons we can take from this:
- Contending for the faith must occur at every level. That means that sometimes you have to take a risk, but that has been a part of the equation from the beginning. When Jesus said “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23). He wasn’t talking as much about sacrifice in the little things in life as He was about actually sacrificing our very lives for Him and His message.
- Contending may need to occur in public. We’re told that we should “praise others in public, correct others in private,” but this isn’t always the best route. Baucham points out that the reason Paul’s public confrontation was appropriate was because Paul and Peter were equal in authority (both were apostles), Paul was well-informed about the issue (there were no assumptions involved), and the public confrontation fit the nature of Peter’s error. If these conditions weren’t involved, I would still say that a private confrontation is best – Jesus taught that “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you” (Matthew 18:15) before doing anything else.
- Confront the error, not the person. Paul could have called Peter a whole bunch of names – hypocrite at the top of the list. But he didn’t – he focused on the error itself. Focusing on the error paves the way for correction, whereas focusing on the person paves the way for humiliation. The quickest way to get someone to stop listening to you? Humiliate them.
If we’re trying to show the love of Christ to a world who has never experienced it, then we have to approach them as Christ would. Conflict is going to occur, but we have to make sure that our Fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peach, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control – Galatians 5:22-23) are what drives our response to that conflict, or else people will just turn away.