Galatians 2:11-14 – But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?”
In the history of the world, after Jesus Christ, the argument can be persuasively made that the two most towering leaders are Peter and Paul. In their conflict, we learn at least seven leadership lessons:
- Culture is what you teach and tolerate. Paul taught grace, but false teachers wanted him to also tolerate law.
- Culture is driven by law, which causes fear and leads to hypocrisy and a secret life. Or, culture is driven by grace, which causes love and leads to repentance and a new life. In any Christian organization (family, church, ministry) these are the only options.
- God works through unity; Satan works through division. Since division literally means two visions, there can be no unity until there is one vision that is God’s vision.
- Wolves cannot gather sheep, so they attack shepherds to get sheep. The false teachers beating Paul and bullying Peter did not plant churches, see people saved, or experience any move of God. Instead, they sought to steal the sheep that belonged to the Good Shepherd by attacking the shepherds (Paul and Peter). This demonic plot is true in every age.
- Stuff rolls uphill, not downhill. Apparently, the local leadership among the churches in Galatia had failed to deal with the crisis of false leaders attacking God’s message of grace, or possibly even were the source of the problem. So, the matter rolled all the way up to Paul even though he was not among local leadership.
- People follow their leaders, which is why leaders are held to higher standards. For Peter to reject close fellowship with Gentiles would result in literally two versions of Christianity for all of history – one for Jews and one for Gentiles. This is why Paul rebuked Peter to his face.
- Pain is the price of leadership. Peter wanted to avoid pain, so he lived as a hypocrite. Paul accepted pain, and so he lived a hard life. In 2 Corinthians 11:24-28 he says, “Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.”
Which of these lessons do you most need to learn?