He said to them: “You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with or visit a Gentile. But God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean. So when I was sent for, I came without raising any objection. May I ask why you sent for me?” Cornelius answered: “Three days ago I was in my house praying at this hour, at three in the afternoon. Suddenly a man in shining clothes stood before me and said, ‘Cornelius, God has heard your prayer and remembered your gifts to the poor. Send to Joppa for Simon who is called Peter. He is a guest in the home of Simon the tanner, who lives by the sea.’ So I sent for you immediately, and it was good of you to come. Now we are all here in the presence of God to listen to everything the Lord has commanded you to tell us.” Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right. You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, announcing the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. You know what has happened throughout the province of Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached— how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him. “We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a cross, but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen—by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” Acts 10:28-43
It must have been shocking for Peter to see God’s plan for the gentiles unfolding. Since almost the beginning of time, there were separations between nationalities. Now, God seemed to be opening a door to embrace unity and equality. It was a paradigm shift that the world had never seen. It was so unexpected for Peter that half of his “gospel” sermon to this gentile household seems to be self-talk. It is as if Peter is thinking out loud trying to work through all that he is processing. Eventually he does get to the story of Jesus, but it takes him some time.
The reality is, we still struggle to embrace the unifying nature of God’s heart for humanity. The gospel is still shocking in this way. It’s good news for ALL people and whenever we find ourselves angry or frustrated with someone or some group of people, we must remember that God’s grace is good news for them too. We don’t fully understand the gospel until we can embrace its power for everyone.
Take a moment and pray a prayer of confession. It is very natural, in our human weakness, to develop an us vs. them attitude. Confess that tendency in you. Ask God to break down any barriers in your heart towards others. Ask God to give you his eyes for EVERY person.
By Aaron Bjorklund