It will go down in history as one of the most awkward moments in Church history.
The Apostle Peter was a man known for his powerful preaching and witness to the resurrection. He spent three years with Jesus and led the inauguration of the Church. Luke tells the story that one day Peter was sleeping on a roof and had a vision from God. He saw all kinds of animals being let down by a sheet and heard a voice tell him to eat. At that moment, God declared all animals and all people clean. From that moment on Peter shared the gospel with the gentile people and ate their food.
The book of Acts does not record much more of the story. In Acts 15 the Church discusses this change, and the story moves forward. Later, the Apostle Paul writes a letter to the Church in the city of Galatia, and he shares another significant incident. In the second chapter of his letter it says, “When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face because he was clearly in the wrong.” The next few verses explain that Peter was afraid of a group of Jews, so he started to separate himself and refused to eat with the Gentiles.
Apparently, it was a banner day in the Church at Antioch. They had not one, but two Apostles at Church along with the Barnabas. They were so excited to spend time with them that they held a fellowship lunch and invited everyone to hang around to talk. Paul watches Peter and when he refuses certain foods and then goes to sit at the “Jews Only” table of the lunchroom. Paul gets up and walks across the room and confronts Peter face to face, telling him the error of his ways.
I imagine a silence falls across the room as Paul raises his voice to Peter and Barnabas at their unchristian behavior. Can you say, “Awkward?”
The whole scene reminds me of an essential truth. All preachers, teachers, writers, and speakers are flawed in some way. They are still sinners redeemed through the work of Jesus. It is a warning to all followers of Jesus that human teachers are still prone to errors. Even the great Apostle Peter was wrong in his leadership and actions in front of the Church.
Sometimes I fear that we like something about a leader that we forget their shortcomings. We accept everything without doing our own study and research. We don’t ask questions of the words we are hearing. We trust the teacher and quietly believe everything they say. The honest truth is that no leader is perfect.
Now, that does not mean you have to be a jerk to them, obnoxiously tearing apart every word and idea as God’s critic. It also does not mean that you drink up every word without question. The middle ground of reasonable questions mixed with loving trust is hard to find, but we must seek it.
Peter was wrong. Sometimes I am wrong. Your favorite speaker and teacher are sometimes entirely wrong. It might seem obvious to say, but in the world of the internet, everyone seems to forget that truth.