In Acts 10 we come across the scene of the Apostle Peter sharing the gospel with the Gentiles. Though sharing the gospel is a good thing, Peter had to be convinced by GOD to go share the good news with Cornelius, his relatives, and close friends. Peter had to be convinced because they were Gentiles while Peter was Jewish—and the history between the two people groups was less than cordial.
While Peter was preaching, the Holy Spirit descended on the Gentiles. Peter, and all his Jewish companions, could not deny that GOD had made the Gentiles equal partakers in their salvation. Peter received criticism for his actions, but boldly defended his actions by telling how GOD intervened in such an undeniable way. After hearing Peter’s version of the story those who once had disdain for the “other” people group now glorified GOD because “to the Gentiles also GOD [had] granted repentance that leads to life.”
After this amazing experience, surely Peter’s issues with discrimination are long gone—right? Well, not all the way. In Galatians chapter 2, the Apostle Paul describes a scene where Peter, years later, was “playing the hypocrite” in Antioch. Peter ate with the Gentiles, but when Jewish men from James came he “drew back and separated himself” from them because he feared what the Jews would say about him eating with uncircumcised men. Upon seeing this, the Apostle Paul was not silent about this issue, but rather he “opposed [Peter] to his face.”
Paul opposed Peter in front of everyone. He did not shrink back. He did not stand idly by. Paul had to say something, not just because discrimination was wrong, but because Peter’s actions were “not in step with the truth of the gospel.” That statement jumped out to me because we often hear people speak of addressing social issues as something that is separate from “just preach the gospel.” Paul spoke up because Peter’s discrimination was out of step with the very gospel that “just” needs to be preached.
Christians, like myself—those who proclaim the authority of Scripture—need to reevaluate how we think about social issues and the gospel (again, not social issues OR the gospel), not because social justice is trendy or an alternative to the gospel, but because the biblical witness itself demands it. Whether it is the widows in Acts 6 or the Gentiles in Galatians 2, the leaders of the early church saw discrimination as a threat to the gospel. They did not dismiss it or seek an indirect way to address it. These gospel believing men addressed it directly. May the same be said for us.
Grace and peace.