In our group coaching sessions, as a staff, we look at two aspects of life and faith as leaders: Character and Competency. The character aspect always involves making sense of what we say we believe, and how we behave. This is the most challenging for leadership, because Competency assumes you can learn new skills and put them into place, but Character is about how we reveal Christ in the things we say and do, linked strongly with what we say we believe.
Having returned from Jerusalem to Antioch, Paul was joined by Peter. Paul welcomed Peter as a fellow preacher and leader, and the two worked together in the various house churches in Antioch. Peter enjoyed fellowship at mixed tables, comprising both Jewish and non-Jewish Christians, at which teaching, evangelism and eating occurred. Everything was fine until other people came. They seem to be a vocal, conservative, Jewish Christian minority group intent on making life uncomfortable for those who enjoy the freedom of the gospel that Paul preaches. And, it seems, Peter steps back from the freedom Christ brings, if Christianity is based upon faith in Jesus Christ and nothing else. For Paul, the issue is significant. Peter is a leader and example, and it can and will influence others to add to the gospel extra expectations beyond Faith in Christ. Paul has been establishing that the gospel frees us, from sin, religion and the opinions of others, and in this Peter is behaving inconsistently; what he declares, and how he behaves do not add up. If the old distinctions of Jew and non-Jew are made irrelevant in the good news of Jesus Christ, this behaviour draws us back into bondage.
Peter was challenged by what his conservative brothers and sisters might think. He sort their approval, not the Lord’s in this, to his regret. Paul called him out on this question of Character. Are there areas in your life where approval of others might have compromised your discipleship? Is what you believe about Jesus backed up in the behaviour you exhibit? When people see, or speak to you, do they know Christ and see his character and gospel hope displayed?