A Call for Courage
IT TOOK A LOT OF COURAGE for Paul to stand up to the Apostle Peter. But in Galatians 2:11-14, that is exactly what he did. Looking back on what Paul did, he said in verse 11, “I opposed him to his face.”
Peter, along with James and John were the pillars of the faith in the early church (2:9). Paul was the unlikely newcomer among them. But they could not deny the amazing way God had turned Paul’s life around and that he was called to bring the gospel to the Gentiles. So, they gave Paul their endorsement by extending to Paul the right hand of fellowship (2:9).
Paul was ministering in Antioch, a city 300 miles north of Jerusalem. Peter traveled to Antioch to see what God was doing in the church there. No doubt, he was excited to see how God was moving among the people there. Upon his arrival in Antioch, Peter freely mingled with his Gentile brothers and sisters in Christ. He ate with them.
But when a delegation from Jerusalem made their way to Antioch, it says in Galatians 2:12 that Peter drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party (2:12). Not only did Paul suggest that their actions were hypocritical, but their actions also had a negative influence on his ministry partner, Barnabas. He too was led astray by their hypocrisy (2:13).
Racial tension! Perhaps the circumstances surrounding the racial tension in Galatians 2 are different than the circumstances we experience in our country; but nonetheless, the conclusion is the same. Paul said of Peter’s prejudice, “their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel.”
So. with the strength that comes from the gospel, with great courage, Paul stood up to the Apostle Peter and opposed him to his face. Courage is a willingness to take a risk.
That is what we need today. We need a gospel-saturated courage to give voice to the injustice of racism that plagues the heart of America. When we see courage on display, it inspires us.
I was inspired when Sheriff Chris Swanson of Flint, Michigan told the peaceful group of protesters that he was with them and he wanted their voice to be heard. As he gave them his support, they encouraged him to march with them; and he did. That took courage. And it is a courage that is being repeated in many of the cities in our country. Police officers are bending their knees in front of demonstrators in order to let them know that they too are grieved with what has long plagued their image within the community. That takes courage.
If you are asking, “what can I do?” as you watch this drama unfold in our country, perhaps the first thing you need to do is muster up some gospel-saturated courage. Give your solidarity to the ones who have felt the injustice of systemic racism that has long plagued our land. Walk with them. Speak up for this issue.
Don’t allow the rioting and the inappropriate expression of anger to cause you to lose sight of the pressing issue before us. Don’t allow the complexities of this issue to cause you to miss what is the simple reality before us. If we want to be agents of healing, justice and reconciliation; we will need courage.
We will need courage to see the sin of racism that lives in our own hearts. We will need courage to call it out when we see it on display in our own church. We will need courage to stand with others even if we stand alone. But stand we must!
Let us keep in step with the gospel and let us be a voice that brings healing.
CT Prays has issued a prayer for the churches of this state as we respond to this issue. May this prayer lend you courage.
Father, we lift your name over Connecticut! We declare Jehovah Shalom over our state. We pray for justice to be released for the death of George Floyd. And we repent for our original national sin of racism and slavery. Lord the wounds are old and deep, and they have yet to heal. Lord have mercy! Lord heal! Lord, set things right! And Lord, we ask you to help your people to be voices of truth and to be agents of healing, justice, and restoration in the face of this issue of racial injustice and division and wounding. Lord, please continue to keep our cities safe during this time of great angst and protest. Father, we plead the blood of Jesus over Connecticut. Please bring your cleansing for all our sins--personal and corporate. Please bring salvation to individual souls and to the soul of our communities. Please deliver us from political rancor and please give wisdom and courageous solutions to our elected officials and our community leaders.
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