The election is just a few months away and it seems as if our nation has never been more divided.
Everyone is choosing a side, taking a stand, and casting their votes. Issues include the economy, the deficit, healthcare reform, foreign policy, immigration, the environment and gun control. Blue states are pitted against red states. Will it be Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump?
If the cultural climate were not clouded enough, we must now pick one superhero over another. First, Batman vs. Superman and now Iron Man vs. Captain America?
In the recently released blockbuster Captain America: Civil War, the United Nations proposes the Anti-Hero Registration Act. Such regulations force Tony Stark (valuing accountability and oversight) to confront the Cap (acknowledging risk and distrust). Steve Rogers suggests, “We try to save as many people as we can. Sometimes that doesn’t mean everybody, but you don’t give up.”
This feud reminds me of a letter written about 20 years after Jesus was resurrected.
Paul confronted those within the church who claimed that Gentiles were to follow Jewish rituals in order to be accepted into the fellowship. Paul reminded them that salvation was by grace through faith in Christ (and Christ alone). He recounts, “But when Peter came to Antioch, I had to oppose him to his face, for what he did was very wrong. When he first arrived, he ate with the Gentile believers, who were not circumcised. But afterward, when some friends of James came, Peter wouldn’t eat with the Gentiles anymore. He was afraid of criticism from these people who insisted on the necessity of circumcision. As a result, other Jewish believers followed Peter’s hypocrisy, and even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. When I saw that they were not following the truth of the gospel message, I said to Peter in front of all the others, ‘Since you, a Jew by birth, have discarded the Jewish laws and are living like a Gentile, why are you now trying to make these Gentiles follow the Jewish traditions?’ ” (Galatians 2:11-14, NLT).
This all occurred in Antioch, “The Rome of the East,” where there was significant pressure to conform to the empire. Believers were martyred and places of worship were burned. Many Jews held onto what they had left (circumcision, food laws, and the temple) while disciples of Jesus “... scattered (they) preached Good News wherever they went.” (Acts 8:4, NLT).
They were first referred here as “Christians” (redeemed by the blood of Christ and sealed by his Spirit). At the heart of the community was table fellowship. Sharing in a meal was symbolic of sharing in the blessing that was spoken over the meal. Many had seen Jesus dine with sinners and witnessed the Spirit falling on people regardless of their ethnicity, gender, age or status.
Imagine Paul’s surprise when he saw Peter and Barnabas withdraw from the Gentiles once their guests arrived from Jerusalem. Proverbs 27:6 reads, “Wounds from a sincere friend are better than many kisses from an enemy”. With that motivation, Paul confronted Peter on his hypocrisy. He had taken his eyes off of Christ (just as in the storm and at Jesus’ trial).
Great leaders fail, God plays no favorites and standing for the gospel can be lonely.
Paul corrected Peter to preserve the gospel (making things right rather than merely being right). He walked in the fruit of the Spirit and in order to please God rather than others. There was no satisfaction in saying, “You are wrong” (Paul refused to think more highly of himself than he should).
Returning to Captain America: Civil War, Agent Peggy Carter (the founder of SHIELD) suggested, “Compromise where you can. Where you can’t, don’t. Even if everyone is telling you that something wrong is something right. Even if the whole world is telling you to move, it is your duty to plant yourself like a tree, look them in the eye, and say, “No, you move.”
Justin Farley is a church planter and lead pastor at Blue Bridge Church located in Carmike Cinemas in Kennewick. Questions and comments should be directed to editor Lucy Luginbill in care of the Tri-City Herald newsroom, 333 W. Canal Drive, Kennewick, WA 99336. Or email firstname.lastname@example.org.