When Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray. When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in front of them all, “You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs? Galatians 2:11-14

Peter didn’t always get it right. This may or may not be a surprise, depending on how familiar you are with the story of the apostle, but it may be a surprise to know that he didn’t get it right when it came to interacting with people of another ethnicity. Paul tells us that when faced with pressure from his own ethnic group, Peter stopped eating with Gentiles, those of another ethnic group. Yet, even though Peter was wrong, he accepted correction when it was brought to his attention. 

As our culture collectively wrestles with the fallout of racism and racial bias, you may find your assumptions, viewpoints, and even actions are being put to the test. Ideas that many of us have taken for granted may not be socially acceptable, or more significantly, in line with God’s heart for all people. It can be difficult to admit that we have room to grow when it comes to race and ethnicity because that means we have to acknowledge we may not be as good of a person as we like to think we are, or we want other people to think we are. Being open to having your views and actions challenged and changed may feel costly, but benefit is a life more in line with God’s heart and kingdom. And isn’t that the point of following Jesus?

Be willing to let yourself be challenged in your ideas of race and ethnicity this week. If you feel yourself having a strong reaction to a new perspective, ask yourself why. Be willing to wrestle with your emotions instead of shutting down. It’s difficult, but it may be the first step towards growth. This might look like having a conversation with someone of a different ethnicity whose experiences might be different than yours. Or, you could listen to a podcast, or investigate resources from the Be the Bridge organization. Approach these perspectives with humility and ask God to help you grow.

By Jessica Rust