The Gospel is about our sense of self.
Peter's sense of self was wobbly and this is understandable. When we follow Peter's story in the book of Acts, we notice that Peter had a number of run-ins with Jewish leadership (see Acts 4 and 12). What's more, this conflict always surrounded how the Apostolic Gospel welcomed Gentile believers. Peter's conviction regarding the inclusion of Gentiles in the people of God was rooted in the word of God that was spoken to him in Acts 10.9-16. Not too long (God had to say it three times!) after the vision, Peter visited a Gentile man named Cornelius. Peter had this to say.
You know it's forbidden for a Jewish man to associate with or visit a foreigner, but God has shown me that I must not call any person impure or unclean. That's why I came without any objection when I was sent for (Acts 10.28-29a, CSB).This was quite a transformation of identity for Peter who had previously responded when God was telling him to eat something that used to be considered unclean: "No , Lord! I have never eaten anything impure and ritually unclean" (Acts 10.14, CSB). It took a while, however, for Peter's identity (his sense of self) to be fully overwhelmed by the Gospel. Paul records Peter's struggle in Galatians 2.11-14. Peter was faithfully obeying the Gospel and did not have any objection to regularly eating with Gentiles (2.12). He wavered, however, when pressured by Jewish leaders who came from Jerusalem and objected to Peter's new found identity. In this moment, Peter forgot what the Gospel says about him and others and out of fear "he withdrew and separated himself." Because Peter's identity was not strongly rooted in the Son of God who loves Peter, who gave himself for Peter, and who was faithful unto death on Peter's behalf, Peter forgot who he was and listened to others' evaluation of him rather than the evaluation of God. Paul calls this heresy. Indeed they were deviating from the Gospel. Tom Wright's translation is helpful. He writes: "When I saw that they weren't walking straight down the line of gospel truth." Did you catch that? Prejudice and favoritism are gospel issues. RACISM IS NOT COMPATIBLE WITH THE GOSPEL! Prejudice is a denial of orthodoxy! Brothers and sisters, may the voice of God drown out the loud competing voices that try to make us forget that the Son of God loves us (and them), that he gave himself for us (and them), and was faithful unto death on our behalf (and their behalf). What gospel consequences will God produce through this truth in our lives?
Two Gospel Consequences
First, the gospel will necessarily create hospitality in us toward those who are different from us. What is your posture toward those who are clearly different from you? What about the person whose yard hosts a political sign for a cause or candidate you do not support? What about the cashier or waitress who just seems too different from you to establish a connection? What about the person at work with whom you just experienced conflict this morning? What about your infuriating spouse? If we have truly been changed by gospel, we will find ourselves supernaturally drawn to connect with these people. This is why "welcoming the stranger" is one of the things that will distinguish between sheep and goats "when the Son of Man comes in his glory" (Matthew 25.31-46).