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Essentials for Local Church Harmony 2: No One Stands Above All

Essentials for Local Church Harmony Day 2: No One Stands Above All   

But when Cephas [Peter] came to Antioch, I [Paul] 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. (Galatians 2:11-12, ESV) 

Have you ever been an unwilling bystander in the middle of a super awkward situation? Maybe you’re at a store, minding your own business, while a married couple argues very loudly, and everyone around them wants to slowly disappear. I think this situation in Galatians 2 had to be rather awkward. If you read farther into that passage, verse 14 clearly states that Paul rebuked Peter “before them all.” It would probably be the kind of thing that someone today would record and turn into an Instagram Reel. But here’s the thing—Paul was absolutely right to do it. Peter was acting hypocritically because he was wrongly segregating himself from other Christians to please the Apostle James. It was the exact type of thing Paul and Peter had agreed was against the principles that Jesus taught. We might think of Peter and James and say, “Come on, Paul! You can’t go getting up in their faces! They were two of the twelve disciples. You know that, right?” Of course he did. But it gives us a very valuable lesson: we are all accountable to someone. Not even the great Apostle Peter stood above everyone else; he needed to be held accountable.

People who think they are above all are exceptionally obnoxious. It applies in all areas of life: at work—the executive or business owner who feels he can get away with anything; at school—the bullies and mean girls that think they run the show. Maybe that’s why we inwardly (or outwardly) rejoice when we see aggressive, maniac drivers getting pulled over! They thought they were above the law, but they were not! We are all accountable to someone, whether we admit it or not—and therein lies the rub.  

The harmonious balance of a local church is greatly harmed when an individual (or a group of people) believes they are not accountable to anyone else within the church. They believe they can come and go as they please, say anything they want to anyone, and do anything they want. If they’re called out for their behavior by a spiritual believer, they hit the roof! How dare they! Meanwhile, even the Apostle Peter responded positively when held accountable. In all of Paul and Peter’s further NT writings, do you detect any beef? Quite the opposite. The final words Peter writes (2 Peter 3) speak of Paul as a “beloved brother” equipped with “wisdom” that prevails through “all his letters when he speaks.” That doesn’t sound like a man holding on to a grudge, fuming over the time he was held accountable for his actions. A person who does that is a powder keg waiting to disrupt the harmony and unity of the church. If you are reading this, you are not above accountability, and neither am I. If your attitude causes other believers and leaders to walk on eggshells around you, that’s a problem. It doesn’t matter how much money you give, what position you hold, who your family is—you are not the top dog. 

The issue of accountability is probably part of the reason why people join large churches or megachurches. In a megachurch, there is little to no accountability for just about anyone. You can attend once every couple of months, and who would know the difference? You can live however you please Monday–Saturday, and who would know? In that setting you can basically disappear, or be an almost “incognito member.” Nobody is there to challenge you when you’re wrong, encourage you when you’re struggling, or pick you up when you’ve fallen. Wait—that last sentence sounds terrible, doesn’t it? But that doesn’t mean it isn’t true. Such is the benefit of a smaller church, a connected church, and an accountable body of believers. It isn’t a matter of being nosy or a busybody. Accountability isn’t meant to harass or beat anyone down; it is meant to build up. If it isn’t doing that, then it isn’t really holding someone accountable. 

Do you want to promote harmony and unity within your church? Welcome and even seek out someone to hold you accountable. Without that, the local church ceases to be a body and is replaced by a collection of random, independent parts. Accountability works, and accountability matters.  

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