“So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcision party criticized him, saying, ‘You went to uncircumcised men and ate with them.’” (Acts 11:2-3, ESV)
When I worked in manufacturing management, I discovered that it was very easy to point the finger at someone based upon the circumstances. Often, I would come into the plant to discover that the second and third shifts did not get a certain job started up on schedule. That left the work of starting up the job to the first shift. The first shift crew would immediately start bad-mouthing the previous shifts. They accused them of doing nothing but goofing-off all night long. However, when I investigated and looked at the production logs, I realized that there were things that happened that were totally out of their control. Those shifts had tried their hardest to get things going.
How often do we judge things without all the facts? How often do we jump to rash and incorrect conclusions based upon appearances? I have done this on many occasions, so I know how easy it is to do. However, it does not make it right. That is exactly what happened in the early church and this often happens in the modern-day church as well.
Peter had just joined with God in taking the gospel to the Gentiles. The journey for Peter had God’s providence written all over it. Peter personally saw the Gentiles receive the same gift of the Spirit as the disciples had on the Day of Pentecost, affirming that they had believed on Jesus also (v15, ff.). Peter comes back to Jerusalem, most likely with an air of jubilation in being part of what God had done, and the Jewish believers, “the circumcision party,” criticizes him saying, “You went to uncircumcised men and ate with them.”
Put yourself in Peter’s sandals for a second. How do you think he felt? Did he feel frustrated, angry, or perplexed with their reaction? Well, we do not know what he felt, but we do know that he did not back down. He had joined God in what He was doing and had the confident assurance in it. Peter simply states what God had begun among the Gentiles (v4-18).
When we join God in the great things that He is doing, especially those things that are new, we can expect a variety of opinions. Often, we may encounter criticism, even from those whom we would expect support. In most cases, the criticism, is spoken out of ignorance of the facts.
Throughout my journey with the Lord, I have experienced these types of moments. When we strove to launch a new church in Savannah, focused on the college campus community, other pastors in the city made comments like these. “Why would you want to do that?” “It will never work.” Four years after we launched the campus church, convention policies forced us to leave the campus location. When I sought counsel for what our little church should do next, one of the prominent pastors in our association told me that, as an engineer, I would never make it in pastoral ministry.
What did I learn through this? I learned two things. First, if you are really joining God in what He is doing, you will let no opposition stand in your way. Like Peter, those that have joined God in His great program, have a certain dogmatic determination. Second, many times opposition or criticism from Christian leaders may be birthed in ignorance. If you are positive that you are joining God in His program, never let criticism and opposition get you off course. Listen to what godly men have to say and evaluate it, but do not ever depart from your journey with God on His Great Adventure for you.