The challenge is to come together and exist in harmony, to speak to one another with love, and to honor the other even when we don’t exactly agree. This scripture passage recounts how Paul traveled to Jerusalem where Jesus’ remaining Apostles were located. There he gave his testimony and preached his gospel so that they might see for themselves his claim and test his words. According to Paul, the others realized that Paul was called and that his ministry to the Gentiles was a valid and divinely ordered call. He was free to go back to his Roman cities and spread the Gospel to the Gentiles living there, while they continued their work among the Jews in Jerusalem. It isn’t until Cephas/Peter travels to Antioch that we see the first real signs of head butting.
When Peter refuses to eat with Gentiles in front of some of the other Jerusalem Christians, Paul calls him out for his hypocrisy. Peter has eaten with Gentiles before, so why should he shun them now? Paul saw it as an issue of not living out the truth of the Gospel. I appreciate how Paul rebukes Peter. He doesn’t call him angry, degrading things. He doesn’t tell him that he is a false believer. Paul reminds Peter who they are and what they are called as Christians to do. He reminds us all that we all serve the same Risen Christ who broke our chains of slavery to sin and death. If I believe that Christ lives in me, then I have to recognize that Christ lives in others, lives in you. If I am going to live that out, then I have to learn to deal with conflict and disagreement in a whole new way, not the worldly way we all learn, but a spiritual way that Christ himself modeled for us. Paul’s words, actions, and conduct continue to be a call to all those who attend Annual Conference. He has set a standard, and we can meet it. We can do all things in Christ.
Prince of Peace,
You, with infinite patience, bore the brunt of others’ dissatisfaction.
You took ours sins upon yourself,
And died for us.
You deserve disciples who speak with truth and love.
Who do not wage war against those who disagree with them,
But actively seek ways to harmoniously coexist and work together.
Give us the wisdom to see when we are headed down the path of hypocrisy,
And use your Spirit to lead us back to you.
Let our ears be open to the Pauls of our time.
If it be your will, let us speak up,
But help us to do it with grace and gratitude.
In you we find our meaning,
In our meeting, let us put you at the core of all we say and do.
Let our holy coferencing be a testimony to you.
May we honor you in all that transpires in this sacred time.
(Image courtesy of iconograms.org)