Diversity in the Church
For most societies today, diversity and multiculturalism is celebrated, and this is (generally) also reflected in the Church. However it wasn’t always like this. It was in Acts 10 that God revealed to Peter that the gospel was also for the Gentiles. Acts 10 documents one of the first Gentile converts and marks a shift in perspective of who the Gospel was meant to reach. This week we discussed three points in which God has worked to prepare both Peter and Cornelius for such a significant event.
Prior to Acts 10, Peter upheld the Jewish tradition of limited association with Gentiles, despite knowing that the Gospel was supposed to reach “to the ends of the Earth,”(Acts 1:8). But in verses 9 to 16, we see God preparing Peter for his encounter with Cornelius. He prepares Peter through a vision. A vision of various “unclean” animals (Leviticus 11) on a large sheet that spread out against the four corners of the earth. Peter being a Jew, didn’t eat “unclean” animals but here God was rebuking him, telling him that anything considered impure, God has now made clean (v15). This was the first step to removing the prejudice against Gentiles. To be clear, prejudice is any sort of judgment made without the known facts. The danger in being prejudiced against others is that it denies grace and assumes self-righteousness, and by that very nature, it is sinful. Even Peter, considered one of the greatest Christians in the Bible, fell into this trap.
When Peter is invited by Cornelius’ associates (v. 17-23), he was also being invited into a new ministry; to share the Good news to the Gentiles. In doing so, God ignited a new compassion within Peter for the Gentiles. Cornelius was also being prepared to hear the Gospel. Described as a generous, God-fearing man, Cornelius only knew and worshiped the Jewish God (which is one aspect of the whole of God). As God prepares these two men, the pieces of the puzzle come together so that Peter would go on to preach the Good News to Cornelius and his party.
When the two meet in verses 24 to 48, it is a moment of understanding between them as Peter is excited to share the Gospel and Cornelius is determined to hear and absorb. In verse 36, Peter acknowledges Christ as “Lord of all,” emphasis on all. The outcome? Baptism of the Gentiles and a newfound unity between Jews and Gentiles as they opened up their place for Peter to stay and have fellowship. When God has made you ready like he did Peter and Cornelius, the pieces will fall into place.
We might be surprised how easily prejudice infects the hearts of even the most committed of Christians. Sure, it’s a sin that we may fall into a lot, but it shouldn’t stop us from sharing the Gospel. We are called to accept each other just as Christ has accepted us, despite how (at times inconceivably) vast our faults are(Romans 15:7).
As prejudice tends to cloud our hearts,
We pray for clarity and Wisdom to
Treat others as you’ve treated us.
Teach us to not show favoritism,
And teach us obedience
When you’ve prepared for the gospel to be shared.
In your mighty and powerful name,