Character is a Choice

“Talent is a gift, but character is a choice.” – John Maxwell

Have you ever known someone rich in talent, but poor in character? Most of us have, and it’s usually a tragic picture of self-deception. Good character isn’t defined by ability, but by the right decisions. In Galatians chapter 2, a story is recalled of Peter and Paul facing tough peer pressure. They had to make some choices. Here’s the passage:

11 Now when Peter had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed; 12 for before certain men came from James, he would eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision. 13 And the rest of the Jews also played the hypocrite with him, so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy.
14 But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter before them all, “If you, being a Jew, live in the manner of Gentiles and not as the Jews, why do you compel Gentiles to live as Jews?
NKJV

Now let’s look at their options and results:

Peter’s Choices

A. Known Truth vs. Status Quo

Results:

  • Peter clearly knew salvation as grace by through faith in Christ (v.16). Joining in with the ones “of the circumcision” meant he was setting aside the truth he clearly knew. Considering that he had previously carried the Gospel to the Gentiles by way of Cornelius in Acts 10, we conclude he bent to the pressure of those in Antioch who set themselves up as “gatekeepers of the club.”
  • Peter’s compromise reinforced the status quo in Antioch and endorsed a false message. Giving him the benefit of the doubt, he may have been attempting to keep the peace, but when it’s at the expense of the truth, a line is crossed. How often do we attempt to keep the peace by simply choosing to let stand the status quo? Ouch, my toes are hurting!

B. Leading vs. Following

Results:

  • Was Peter leading or following? He actually was doing both; following the lead of spiritual bullies, and leading others along with him. Acts 11:19-24 describes Barnabas as a man full of the Holy Spirit and faith. He had a great reputation as a man of God, but Peter’s choices influenced even Barnabas (v.13) to become a hypocrite!
  • Warren Wiersbe says, “Fear threatens freedom”. The very freedom of the Antioch church was at stake, and unfortunately Peter was helping hammer the shackles together. The benefits of holding to the truth always outweigh the risk of losing fellowship with a few. We never know ALL of the ones that are watching.

Paul’s Choices

A. Known Truth vs. Status Quo

Results:

  • Paul chose to tackle the problem head-on. Often, private discussion is the best way to resolve issues, but not this time-why? It was a public problem, which had become the “elephant-in-the-room”. The hypocrisy was all taking place in full view and should be dealt with accordingly. The members of the church needed to hear the truth. In those moments when we’re put in position to defend truth, the non-speaking bystander may be the most fertile soil for the seed.
  • The power of those teaching Jewish tradition mixed with grace had grown, but was now being checked by someone under the leadership of the Holy Spirit. Paul was bold, but he spoke in love – a key part of great character.

B. Leading vs. Following

Results:

  • Peter’s epistles give evidence of a man who received correction, moved forward, and calls out false teachers (II Peter 2). A teachable spirit is so important. Peter may have been spontaneous and outspoken, but in the end he was teachable. My prayer is be teachable. Sometimes pride gets in the way, but in the end I want to have been a learner.
  • With Antioch fast becoming the epicenter of the early church, unity was important. As a matter of fact, unity should be part of our goals, but not at the expense of Biblical truth. Paul’s willingness to address a big issue helped avoid a significant split, and loss of momentum.

In the modern era there are many forces trying to press us into a mold; in family, work, and church, but the Bible says, “do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind (Romans 12:2). Choose right…choose character over convenience. Choose to stand on His Word, and pass it on!

About cchrisholland

...Christ-follower, husband, dad, minister, and chronic day-dreamer
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