Today’s Reading: Acts 10 & 11
Peter told them, “You know it is against our laws for a Jewish man to enter a Gentile home like this or to associate with you. But God has shown me that I should no longer think of anyone as impure or unclean…I see very clearly that God shows no favoritism. In every nation he accepts those who fear him and do what is right…” – Acts 10:28, 34-35
Peter, like all Jewish young men, had grown up with the false idea that Gentiles were impure – that God’s plan of salvation was only for the Jewish people. It took a vision from God to wake Peter up to the truth. It took God Himself revealing His love for all people for Peter to understand that God does not show favoritism. There are a few things I noticed about Peter’s experience.
God spoke to Peter WHILE Peter was praying to Him – if we want to hear from God, we need to spend time with Him. Peter had gone up on the roof to pray. It was during this time of separating himself and spending time with God in prayer that God was able to reveal to him some erroneous thinking that needed corrected.
The vision was of a large sheet being let down from the sky, full of all sorts of animals, reptiles, and birds. This group of animals included those that the Jewish people considered unclean and were forbidden to eat. Imagine Peter’s confusion when, in the vision, God told Peter to get up and eat the animals.
Peter’s reaction: “I have never eaten anything that our Jewish laws have declared impure and unclean.” God’s correction: “Do not call something unclean if God has made it clean.” – Acts 10:14-15
Like Peter, sometimes God has to tell us something multiple times before we get it. This vision from God was repeated three times and still Peter did not get it. God moves on to part 2 of His plan. The Holy Spirit tells Peter to go downstairs and go with the three men he has sent. These men took him to the home of Cornelius, a Roman officer – a devout and God-fearing man but also a Gentile. Now Peter gets it. Now he understands. He will no longer call one of God’s children unclean.
Peter preached the Good News to Cornelius, as well as to his household and friends, and the Holy Spirit came upon all of them. Peter and the Jewish believers with him were amazed that God’s gift of the Holy Spirit was being poured out on the Gentiles also.
Don’t argue with God. When His presence is obvious in the lives of others, don’t look for reasons to criticize or exclude them. Then Peter asked, “Can anyone object to their being baptized, now that they have received the Holy Spirit just as we did?” (Acts 10:47)
Do not worry about what other people think. When Peter arrived back in Jerusalem, he was criticized by the Jewish believers. Instead of weakening from their pressure, Peter told them what God had revealed to them and of how the Holy Spirit had filled the Gentile believers. The result – the Jewish believers stopped objecting and began praising God, “We can see that God has also given the Gentiles the privilege of repenting of their sins and receiving eternal life” (Acts 11:18).
If Peter had not stood up for what he knew was right, the beliefs of others would not have changed. Because he was bold for Christ, their understanding of God’s love for EVERYONE led to the sending of missionaries to the Gentiles for the express purpose of their salvation. They went from seeing the Gentiles as unclean to seeing their need for a Savior and investing in their salvation by sending preachers to them.
Two of these missionaries were Barnabas and Paul. They stayed in Tarsus for a full year, teaching large crowds of people. And it was in Antioch that these new Gentile believers were first called Christians. Wait – the best part is coming! These new Gentile believers heard the predictions by the Spirit that a great famine was coming upon the entire Roman world. The believers generously sent relief to their new brothers and sisters in Christ in Judea. I love it!
Sometimes God teaches us things and corrects our wrong thinking, not just for the benefit of others, but also as part of a bigger plan to save us. Our God is complex and He is generous. He shows no favoritism. Do we? He does not look down on groups of people because of their ethnicity or background or sin – instead, He loves them. Do we?
Lord, give us a heart that loves others like you love them. Help us to show our love for you through our actions towards those around us. Help us never to buy into the lies of racism or be drawn towards favoritism. Give us eyes to see as you see and a heart that beats in rhythm with yours! Amen.