Peter—one of Jesus’ original disciples—had grown up in a culture where the Jews believed that God only cared about them, not the Gentiles or non-Jews.
Most of the Jews looked down on the Gentiles and refused to even associate with them because Jews believed Gentiles were unclean; Gentiles didn’t live the right way to please God. Any Jew who did associate with Gentiles did so at the risk of being ridiculed by his own people.
After Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, God shared with Peter that He loved not only the Jews, but the Gentiles as well. (Acts 10:9-16) Peter took to heart this message from God and began associating with Gentiles, even eating with Gentile believers. That is, until some Jewish believers came around. When he was among Jews, Peter did not eat with the Gentiles and even told them they were supposed to follow certain Jewish laws. But he knew that was not true! Peter also led Barnabas, known for encouraging believers and bringing them together, into acting the same way.
When the apostle Paul learned about this, he confronted Peter in person. Paul reminded Peter that they both knew that God accepts people not based on how they live but by faith. (Rom. 3:21-22) Peter’s actions contradicted that core gospel message.
Paul shared this story with the believers in Galatia (a major province of Rome in modern Turkey) to remind them—and us—of the same truth. Salvation is not based on ethnicity or external obedience to the law. Salvation comes from faith in Jesus Christ, a faith that is freely available to people of every tongue, tribe, and nation.
Peter was wrong to separate himself from the Gentiles. The gospel is for everyone, and we should show love to everyone. Paul reminded Peter that only Jesus can save people from sin. God accepts people who have faith in Jesus, not people who try to earn salvation on their own.
As you talk to your kids this week, encourage them not to wonder if they have what it takes to be saved. Salvation is found in Jesus. Remind them that because God loves all people, we—in Jesus—can love all people too.