It almost sounds like an oxymoron. Most instances trumpet a noble cause that one party must be stern with the other because of purely selfless and altruistic motives. Sad stories abound of parents placing their child in a rehabilitation center for an out of control drug habit. There are accounts of friends confronting one of their own about a gambling problem that has placed the friend’s family in severe financial straits. Yet, others will use it to exert their will over another, cloaked under the pretext of tough love.
But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?”
Galatians 2:11-14 (ESV)
In this passage from Galatians, Paul recounts one of his early encounters with Peter (Cephas), confronting him about his apparent hypocrisy in eating with the Gentile believers. When other Jewish believers arrived, Peter withdrew from the Gentiles, insisting they follow Jewish dietary laws. Lest anyone accuse Paul of attempting to exert his will over Peter, under the pretext of tough love, Paul concludes the passage with this stirring declaration. He was making it clear that he only confronted Peter to be consistent with the reason Jesus Christ died and was resurrected, to fulfill the Law and show everyone a new life and path to a relationship with God.
For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor. For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Galatians 2:18-20 (ESV)
The Apostles Paul and Peter were two of the most important figures of the early Christian church. United in their passion and zeal to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ, they were a fascinating study in contrasts of temperament, methods, and backgrounds. Not surprising, they also bumped heads. Frankly, I think Paul may have been a very difficult man with whom to work. He had such high standards for himself and, undoubtedly for everyone he met. Although I aspire to be like Paul, my namesake, I usually behave like Peter, putting my foot in my mouth and acting before I think. If I had worked with Paul, I know I would have often disappointed him and be on the receiving end of his tough love!
Thanks be to Jesus Christ that His tough love confronts and leads us to realize that all who confess and repent of their sins will be granted salvation and eternal life in His Name.
Love and trust the Lord; seek His will in your life.