Loyal Friend or Enabler?
But when Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. Galatians 2:11
In the worst of my addiction, I inappropriately used the power of my license to get my pills. When that fact came to the attention of those with whom I worked, they had a tough choice to make. It’s a small hospital and we were all friends. I don’t know for sure, but I’ve got to think there was at least a moment when they considered quietly sweeping it under the rug. I certainly would have been in favor of that, but it would have been wrong for the hospital, the public, and for me. My behavior didn’t affect only me and so it was the kind of thing that couldn’t be hidden. To address it appropriately, meant exposing it. That was horribly painful, for me and for those who had to do it, but it was absolutely necessary.
This seems to be somewhat similar to the situation in which Paul found himself in today’s passage. In the story, Peter displayed prejudice and elitism by refusing to associate with the gentile Christians when certain Jewish Christians were present. Because everyone saw this, it was a public offense. At that point, Paul, as a church leader, had to make a decision. Surely, he could have looked the other way, ignoring the racist behavior. After all, he and Peter were on the same side. It would have been simpler to just let it slide. Or, Paul could have pulled Peter aside to reprove him quietly.
Paul knew however, that everyone was watching. This wasn’t a secret sin. This was a public display of pride and prejudice. If Paul let it go, or tried to deal with it quietly, everyone would have seen Paul as complicit in the behavior. His silence would have equaled endorsement. Because of the public nature of the sin, Paul knew it had to be publicly addressed. It must have been tremendously uncomfortable, but for the good of Peter, the gentile Christians, and the church, Paul had to do the right thing and confront Peter.
Confrontation can be terribly hard for everyone. We value loyalty in our friends, often to a fault. Sometimes though, we engage in behavior that shouldn’t be ignored. When we’re hurting ourselves or others, a true friend will have the courage to do the uncomfortable thing and confront us about it. If we are real friends, we will do the same for those whom we claim to love. Love doesn’t mean enabling. Sometimes love means painful confrontation.