"Now when Peter had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face,
because he was to be blamed."
Do you remember the old classic westerns that used to come on television? There was always the bad guy that wore the black hat and of course the good guy with the white hat. The bad guy would go around assaulting people on the stagecoach, in the saloon, and would eventually try to rob the bank. Finally, he and the good guy would meet in the street. There they would stand with their hands by their side and their guns at the ready. The bad guy would have an evil smirk on his face, because he just knew that he was about to take over this town with one pull of the trigger. The good guy's face was set in stone, and he was confident that evil's reign of terror was about to end. Finally, guns were pulled and shots were fired. For one dramatic second the bad guy smiled as if he had won, but then he suddenly dropped to his knees and then on to his face. Good had prevailed again.
Wouldn't it be easier if all conflict were that clear and simple to resolve? Every one who is wrong would have to wear black hats, and those who are right would have on white hats. It would make a much easier argument, and we would be able to avoid the confrontations that most of us dread. Our passage tells us that two good guys came face to face in conflict. Peter was acting differently toward the Gentiles whenever the Jews were around, and this infuriated Paul. So, how did he handle it? He handled it scripturally. We could learn much from this event in how to handle our own conflicts. Paul could have avoided it all together and just decided not to get involved. However, there was a cause and a purpose that needed him to speak up. Paul could have gone to Barnabas and some of the other Apostles and told them how disappointed he was with Peter, but that would have only sown discord among the brothers in Christ. Paul could have angrily blown up at Peter and damaged their friendship and future ministry, but he knew that there was a greater purpose here than his opinion.
When we have issues and problems with other brothers and sisters, it is imperative that we handle them Biblically. We are servants together for the cause of Christ, and we must know how to love others as we would have them love us. There are three principles that will help us handle these conflicts in a way that honors God. First, be direct. Deal with the individual involved and leave every one else out of it. To bring others into a personal conflict is unfair to those whom you bring into it and the person with whom you have a problem. Second, be honest. Tell them exactly what the problem is and do not talk around the problem. The essential message of Christ is truth and that truth should spill over into every area of our lives, even conflict. Third, be loving. The Bible commands us to speak the truth and do it in love. Many times it is not as much what you say that is important as it is how you say it. Recognize that person as a child of God like yourself that needs to be confronted with truth and love at the same time.
May you find peace in your relationships today!