Peter has broken with tradition and with accepted Jewish expectations, if not rules, for meeting with Gentiles. He has not only gone into the house of Cornelius, a Roman centurion, but he has also eaten with the group gathered, fellowshipped with them, AND baptized them. He then is questioned by a subgroup among the early believers that strongly believed new believers must become Jews to join their group. This protocol was not followed. Peter is called to explain.
We cannot throw stones here for Christians subdivide according to beliefs about end times – pre-trib, post-trib, millennial. We divide according to how we understand baptism or communion and sacraments. It feels like being called to the principal’s office when we have to explain our actions. The discussion that is unfolding will deeply mark the trajectory of the growth of Christianity. But we are looking at how Peter responded to conflict?
As we ponder spiritual growth, it might be useful to reflect on how Peter dealt with conflict. We find an interesting response. It seems that Peter rather than argue and defend, shared his story about how the events unfolded and how it seems that God led. He started at Joppa and shared about his vision and hearing God’s voice. He points out that he was not alone but in a group who also experienced the event. He identifies the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of the Gentile in the meeting. His explanation does not sound defensive. The confronters are satisfied. The issue will go to the Jerusalem leadership. Labeling, name-calling and blood shed were not elements as we see in our arguments going on in society today.
So how do you handle conflict? One of the litmus tests that might come up in marriage counseling is to talk about having a real argument with the other and how it was resolved. I remember being advised to never say, “You’re just like….” But to try to give “I feel” statements that do not sound accusatory and own your own perspective. Peter stuck to the facts and traced God’s perceived action that led him. It is definitely good advice to not only “count to 10” but also to review a situation identifying God’s leading and possibly others who can verify our understanding. Slowing down and praying is always wise. Stepping into new areas of applying our faith can be confusing to others so let us be patient with them as we explain. God does lead us into new challenges that cause us to grow spiritually and understand Him better.