But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood self-condemned; for until certain people came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But after they came, he drew back and kept himself separate for fear of the circumcision faction. (Gal. 2:11-12)
I met Joel Osteen on an airplane in 1999, shortly after he became the pastor of Lakewood Church, which is now the largest church in the country. The conversation that started on that day led to more conversations with other members of his family and staff.
Because Lakewood experienced such tremendous growth in the next few years, it decided to purchase The Summit, which had been the arena where the Houston Rockets had once played basketball.
When Lakewood was ready to dedicate and bless the former basketball arena with its new sanctuary, Joel’s brother invited me to sit on stage with other religious leaders at a special service. I thought about the invitation for a few days and then called to decline.
When Joel’s brother inquired why, I said, “If some folks from my church saw me on television sitting on the stage of your new church, I would get a lot of negative feedback. I just don’t want to deal with all that grief, especially when we are trying to raise funds for our own building project.”
That phone call ended a friendly and helpful working relationship.
That phone call still embarrasses me. I should’ve cared more about giving my support to a Christian community going through significant growth than I did about the pushback from a few folks.
In today’s scripture, Peter flinched, and Paul called him out. Peter flinched because he was worried about what others would think about him eating with some Gentiles.
Today’s encouragement is this: We need to care more about doing what God would have us do than about what others may think. The more we stand up for what is right, speak up for what is good, and remain firm for what is faithful, the less often we will—like I did—flinch. When we do flinch, we, like Peter, become self-condemned.
- Have you ever not done the right thing because you were worried about what others would think? If so, when? How did your flinching make you feel then? How does it make you feel now?
- After I finished writing this piece, I asked myself this question: “Jim, isn’t it time to forgive yourself for something you did 20 years ago?” Let me now ask you the same question.
- Our wallowing in what we once did, or didn’t do, isn’t going to do us or the world any good. How can you live now and into the future with more courage, resolve, and faithfulness?