“Lesson From An Orange Nose”
June 30, 2016
“Lesson From An Orange Nose”
Listen to this message on your audio player.
“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 [Peter] 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” (Galatians 2:11-13). “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16).
During preparations for a Sunday service Brooksyne was at the piano on the platform. I noticed some beautiful flowers on the Communion Table so I went up and examined them and then leaned forward to smell them. (Brooksyne later told me they were Asiatic lilies.) Afterwards, I went on through the church greeting several people.
Lee walked into the foyer so I greeted him with a friendly handshake. He looked directly at my face and then discreetly asked, “What’s that all over your nose?” Feeling just a little uncomfortable of what he might be referring to I nervously answered, “Nothing”, as I quickly grabbed a handkerchief from my back pocket just in case, fearing the worst (you know what I mean). I thoroughly wiped what I said was “nothing” off my nose, but the handkerchief was covered with orange-colored dust that came from sniffing the flower! Later several admitted they had noticed it but were uncomfortable saying anything. They probably didn’t want to embarrass me. (Note: The photo to the left is not me).
Well, that’s a little thing, but since I have a rather prominent nose I sure appreciated Lee’s up front honesty. Now, Brooksyne or Ester would have quickly seen it and told me, but no telling how many others politely ignored it, either shifting their eyes away from the problem or keeping a straight face while restraining a chuckle as we talked.
Today I use this to illustrate a sometimes painful but absolutely necessary element in Biblical relationships. Now I really wasn’t “confronted” but Lee called my attention to a problem and when that happens we can either examine the validity of the charge and take appropriate action or we can react, be offended, or ignore the problem.
Please note: Today’s Biblical exposition portion is a bit longer than normal.
Today’s first text records a confrontational encounter. It involved two of the most prominent leaders in the early church; Peter and Paul. The issue spoke to the very heart of the Christian faith. The Galatian churches had been infiltrated by a false doctrine. A group known as the Judaizers asserted that salvation was a mix of faith in Christ and keeping the Jewish law. Reading the text closely indicates that the confrontation itself was prompted by Peter’s actions. He was trying to walk the fence rather than standing up against false doctrine.
First notice the phrase “I opposed him to the face.” Paul didn’t seek a backhanded means of confrontation. Direct confrontation can be the most difficult but in reality is usually the best. Paul was certain that Peter “was clearly in the wrong”. Now that’s conviction. After all, Peter was Paul’s senior in regard to church leadership and one of the original disciples of Christ.
The issue was association with the Gentiles. God’s plan for the early church (and instructive for each age) is a healthy ethnic diversity. The church was comprised of both Jews and Gentiles. Peter should have learned this lesson from his experience in Acts 10 when he was called to the household of Cornelius. Now, rather than entering into fellowship he drew back and separated himself from the Gentiles.
Notice the basis of Peter’s actions: “He was afraid”. It is harmful to your Christian testimony when your convictions are set aside in fear of others and essentially politics; certainly an issue for our day as well! God had powerfully spoken to Peter earlier on this matter (Acts 10). He clearly needed Paul’s rebuke.
Yet consider, Peter was one of the original twelve disciples and a member of Jesus’ inner circle. He spoke for the new church on the Day of Pentecost and was the most prominent leader in the church’s early years.
Did Peter react to Paul’s words or did he respond? There is a difference! I wonder if he thought or reacted, “How dare you speak out against me; you weren’t even one of the twelve, let alone in the inner circle like me!” He could easily have brought up Paul’s past along with the terror and heartache he brought to the followers of Christ prior to his conversion.
Paul, on the other hand was the Johnny-come-lately. He missed all the action during Christ’s earthly ministry and then vehemently persecuted the early church. I wonder if it was difficult for Paul to confront Peter? After all, what right did he have to confront a senior leader of the church?
Yet today we are all enriched by this encounter. Correct doctrine was preserved in this circumstance. Although the text doesn’t specifically tell us how Peter reacted he later wrote a very respectful remark about Paul, “our beloved brother”, in his second Epistle (2 Peter 3:15). I find it interesting that his first letter was written to these same churches in the region of Galatia. This suggests that Paul’s rebuke had no lasting harm on Peter’s esteem among these churches.
Today, may God help us, like Peter, to receive proper rebuke when we need to be corrected in our behavior or attitude. May we have a receptive and teachable spirit.
May we also have the courage, like Paul, to stand up for our convictions and truth! Confrontation can be an opportunity for spiritual maturing when it is done prayerfully, lovingly, and discreetly. If God urges you to confront a person about a matter be obedient to His leading. When doing so remember that you are responsible for the message and the way you deliver it, but the recipient is responsible for his or her response to that message.
Be encouraged today,
Stephen & Brooksyne Weber
Daily prayer: Father, we want to be used of You to bless others and encourage them in their spiritual walk. Help us to be sensitive to Your Spirit’s leading when there are words of guidance, caution or even correction that we are to share with our brother or sister. Help us to be careful messengers of Your truth, grace, and reproof. Help us also to be grateful recipients when You use other godly messengers to speak to us about matters which we ignore, misuse, or are blinded to. May we all do our part in building up the body for which Christ gave His life. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Much more could be written concerning today’s message but a few clarifications are in order:
2) Some people like to confront and are nitpicky about matters of taste and mere opinion.
3) When led to confront we should do so with an attitude of prayerful humility.
4) Face to face is good but not always possible. I also find it helpful to write my position out whether the confrontation is face to face or in the form of a letter.
5) Confrontation should be private as much as possible.
Today’s Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources
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