18 Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Cephas and stayed with him fifteen days. 19 I saw none of the other apostles—only James, the Lord's brother. 20 I assure you before God that what I am writing you is no lie.I haven't written much about application in the Galatians series yet, but I personally felt conviction in this passage and thought it would be worth while to blog about it. I have to credit McKnight with this basic insight.
21 Then I went to Syria and Cilicia. 22 I was personally unknown to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. 23 They only heard the report: "The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy." 24 And they praised God because of me.
Paul's was honest even when it was potentially damaging. As Paul was recounting his story he would badly want to omit his visit to Jerusalem if at all possible, because any visit could be damaging and spun as him having been taught by or under the authority of the Jerusalem apostles. This would be exactly the type of thing that the Teachers would jump on and use for their own devices. It could potentially be damning for Paul's case. Certainly, it would have been easier to omit it, but in a highly selective account, he includes it. Why? Couldn't he have left it out to build as strong a case as possible, especially in defense of the gospel? Honesty is a critical component of Christian witness and being honest, even when it's difficult, is an active expression of our faith in God.
That's a personal struggle for me. I know that I have a tendency to omit relevant facts or stretch the truth to get the best possible result for myself. The desire to have the approval of others is very strong, I have a lot of pride. It needs to be dealt with. It also shows my lack of faith. I need to be in control, spinning the facts. The funny thing is, I probably have hurt myself by trying to make things work for my own good. What lessons of God have I missed by dancing around the truth and avoiding the consequences? I surely would be much holier than I am now.
We need to heed Paul's example in our teaching as well. Let's remember that only the Holy Spirit has the power to change people. He does use us as means, but there's nothing that dishonesty can do to bring real transformation. The Holy Spirit can move and change people in spite of our deceit, but never because of it. All it can ultimately effect is us being discredited when the truth comes to light.