Today, in my intercultural studies class, we were reading Acts 10 out of the Bible. I adore this chapter now.
Acts 10 [MSG]
1-3 There was a man named Cornelius who lived in Caesarea, captain of the Italian Guard stationed there. He was a thoroughly good man. He had led everyone in his house to live worshipfully before God, was always helping people in need, and had the habit of prayer. One day about three o’clock in the afternoon he had a vision. An angel of God, as real as his next-door neighbor, came in and said, “Cornelius.”
4-6 Cornelius stared hard, wondering if he was seeing things. Then he said, “What do you want, sir?”
The angel said, “Your prayers and neighborly acts have brought you to God’s attention. Here’s what you are to do. Send men to Joppa to get Simon, the one everyone calls Peter. He is staying with Simon the Tanner, whose house is down by the sea.”
7-8 As soon as the angel was gone, Cornelius called two servants and one particularly devout soldier from the guard. He went over with them in great detail everything that had just happened, and then sent them off to Joppa.
9-13 The next day as the three travelers were approaching the town, Peter went out on the balcony to pray. It was about noon. Peter got hungry and started thinking about lunch. While lunch was being prepared, he fell into a trance. He saw the skies open up. Something that looked like a huge blanket lowered by ropes at its four corners settled on the ground. Every kind of animal and reptile and bird you could think of was on it. Then a voice came: “Go to it, Peter—kill and eat.”
14 Peter said, “Oh, no, Lord. I’ve never so much as tasted food that was not kosher.”
15 The voice came a second time: “If God says it’s okay, it’s okay.”
16 This happened three times, and then the blanket was pulled back up into the skies.
17-20 As Peter, puzzled, sat there trying to figure out what it all meant, the men sent by Cornelius showed up at Simon’s front door. They called in, asking if there was a Simon, also called Peter, staying there. Peter, lost in thought, didn’t hear them, so the Spirit whispered to him, “Three men are knocking at the door looking for you. Get down there and go with them. Don’t ask any questions. I sent them to get you.”
21 Peter went down and said to the men, “I think I’m the man you’re looking for. What’s up?”
22-23 They said, “Captain Cornelius, a God-fearing man well-known for his fair play—ask any Jew in this part of the country—was commanded by a holy angel to get you and bring you to his house so he could hear what you had to say.” Peter invited them in and made them feel at home.
God Plays No Favorites
23-26 The next morning he got up and went with them. Some of his friends from Joppa went along. A day later they entered Caesarea. Cornelius was expecting them and had his relatives and close friends waiting with him. The minute Peter came through the door, Cornelius was up on his feet greeting him—and then down on his face worshiping him! Peter pulled him up and said, “None of that—I’m a man and only a man, no different from you.”
27-29 Talking things over, they went on into the house, where Cornelius introduced Peter to everyone who had come. Peter addressed them, “You know, I’m sure that this is highly irregular. Jews just don’t do this—visit and relax with people of another race. But God has just shown me that no race is better than any other. So the minute I was sent for, I came, no questions asked. But now I’d like to know why you sent for me.”
30-32 Cornelius said, “Four days ago at about this time, midafternoon, I was home praying. Suddenly there was a man right in front of me, flooding the room with light. He said, ‘Cornelius, your daily prayers and neighborly acts have brought you to God’s attention. I want you to send to Joppa to get Simon, the one they call Peter. He’s staying with Simon the Tanner down by the sea.’
33 “So I did it—I sent for you. And you’ve been good enough to come. And now we’re all here in God’s presence, ready to listen to whatever the Master put in your heart to tell us.”
34-36 Peter fairly exploded with his good news: “It’s God’s own truth, nothing could be plainer: God plays no favorites! It makes no difference who you are or where you’re from—if you want God and are ready to do as he says, the door is open. The Message he sent to the children of Israel—that through Jesus Christ everything is being put together again—well, he’s doing it everywhere, among everyone.
37-38 “You know the story of what happened in Judea. It began in Galilee after John preached a total life-change. Then Jesus arrived from Nazareth, anointed by God with the Holy Spirit, ready for action. He went through the country helping people and healing everyone who was beaten down by the Devil. He was able to do all this because God was with him.
39-43 “And we saw it, saw it all, everything he did in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem where they killed him, hung him from a cross. But in three days God had him up, alive, and out where he could be seen. Not everyone saw him—he wasn’t put on public display. Witnesses had been carefully handpicked by God beforehand—us! We were the ones, there to eat and drink with him after he came back from the dead. He commissioned us to announce this in public, to bear solemn witness that he is in fact the One whom God destined as Judge of the living and dead. But we’re not alone in this. Our witness that he is the means to forgiveness of sins is backed up by the witness of all the prophets.”
44-46 No sooner were these words out of Peter’s mouth than the Holy Spirit came on the listeners. The believing Jews who had come with Peter couldn’t believe it, couldn’t believe that the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out on “outsider” non-Jews, but there it was—they heard them speaking in tongues, heard them praising God.
46-48 Then Peter said, “Do I hear any objections to baptizing these friends with water? They’ve received the Holy Spirit exactly as we did.” Hearing no objections, he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.
Then they asked Peter to stay on for a few days.
This story is just so beautiful for humanity! As we read, we see that Peter is called to forget what he has always known to be “unclean” through a vision. At first Peter tells God no, but we know how that works out. Peter is given the vision two more times. While he is trying to understand what this vision meant, three men came to his door. He was told by the Spirit to go with the men, so he did. Cornelius had been given a vision to send for Peter. When Peter arrived to Cornelius’ home, he reminded Cornelius that by even entering his home, Peter was breaking the law because he was a Jew entering the home of an “unclean” Gentile. He did so anyway because God called him to. While at Cornelius’ home, Peter spoke to the people there. While Peter was in the midst of his speaking, the Holy Spirit moved and the “unclean” Gentiles began to speak in tongues, in the same way as the first followers of the Holy Spirit did on the day of Pentecost.
What happened in this story may not seem like a spectacular miracle, but this event caused a realization to occur to Peter, and it should cause a revelation to come to us today. GOD DOES NOT SHOW FAVORITISM, but accepts all men who fear him and do what is right. Peter realized that a label given to those people should not keep them from opportunities those who were labeled “clean” had through Christ.
How does this relate to us on a daily basis? How does this relate in a missions realm? I believe that as a church, we can sometimes have fear of others around us that we don’t seem to have control over. We may even feel that there are people who are “below” us. It doesn’t matter if someone is a Muslim, or goes and gets hammered at the bar every weekend, or does drugs. What matters is that we understand that those people are equal to us in the eyes of our creator, the same creator that made them and cherishes them. When we understand that each of us are equals, we should be compelled to make sure that each person we come in contact with, no matter our views of them, has the same opportunities in Christ as we do.
Romans 12:8 [NIV]
If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
1 Corinthians 12:7 [NIV]
But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.
Christ did not just die for the kind, faithful, servants… he also died for the broken and shattered. We are ALL sinners, saved by sweet grace.