As ugly as it is and as much as we don’t want to believe it, we all have prejudices. Places we pre-judge; pre-convict others. We are prone toward judgment, prejudice, and justifying our actions while condemning others. Even if we genuinely and sincerely don’t want to.
In Acts 10 we see how gentle God is with us when He is breaking down our prejudices to further His kingdom. I don’t know about you, but this is what I want. I want to chase truth, not just my idea of what truth is. I want God to soften my heart where I am wrong about things that don’t line up with His truth.
The story begins with an essential prerequisite to understanding truth: time with God. Both of the main characters, Cornelius (a Gentile Roman officer) and Peter (a devout Jew and apostle), are in the habit of time in prayer with God. Our chances of hearing and obeying God are significantly improved if we spend time with Him. During a time of prayer, they each hear from God. God is orchestrating a meet-up that will change both of their lives…and ours as well.
In prayer, Cornelius sees a vision, and God instructs him to send people to Joppa to bring Peter to his home to hear what he has to say.
Roughly thirty miles away, Peter is in prayer and falls into a trance. The heavens open and a great sheet descends, being let down by its four corners upon the earth. In it were all kinds of animals – clean and unclean according to Jewish law. God’s voice comes to him, “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.” Peter has come a long way, but Peter is still Peter as he replies, “By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything common or unclean.” God is patient with Peter. He replies, “What God has made clean, do not call common.” Three times Peter received the same instructions. And while pondering the vision, the Spirit tells him three men sent by God have come, and Peter is to accompany them without hesitation.
God gives Peter insight and clear instructions. God is gentle with Peter, knowing this would be hard for him as his heart is being softened and preconceived ideas shattered. Steven Cole says, “Thankfully, the Lord works gradually and gently with us in spite of our many shortcomings and sins. He teaches us by putting us in uncomfortable situations, where we have to challenge our blind assumptions and grow to be more like the Lord Jesus, who was the friend of sinners that others were prejudiced against.”
The men Cornelius sends to get Peter arrive. Peter welcomes them in and then accompanies them to Caesarea. Something unheard of and strictly forbidden…or at least Peter thought. Devout Jews didn’t associate with Gentiles, much less invite them to stay or go into their homes. Peter could have rattled off quite a list of Old Testament passages that supported staying away. But Peter obeys God. It is important to know that God is not inconsistent. While the Israelites were a set apart people before the blood of Jesus washed away all sins perfectly and permanently, God also told them that His Salvation was for all nations. And even when Abraham was set apart, God promised that the blessing to come through his descendants would extend to all nations. God will never call us to do something that is not in line with His Word or character.
Cornelius, with a full house of friends and relatives, welcomes Peter in. Peter enters acknowledging, “it is unlawful for a Jew to associate or visit anyone of another nation, but God has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean.” Barriers are breaking down. Peter realizing the vision is about more than just food. Peter begins to speak, starting with, “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.” He continues with the Gospel, sharing as he would with a fellow Jew. Mid-sermon the Holy Spirit falls on all who heard the word. They believed in their heart, and the Holy Spirit came to these believing Gentiles as it had to the believing Jews. Good News, Salvation, Redemption, Forgiveness available to all nations and peoples who believe.
Cornelius becomes the first of many Gentile coverts to Christianity. The angel that appeared to Cornelius could have shared the Gospel with him, but God graciously orchestrated Peter to be the one to step out of his comfort zone and prejudices and witness the start of something beautiful.
Jim Erwin sums up Five Keys for Making a Difference based on Acts 10. First, we must be walking closely with God. We must be in a posture to hear Him. Second, we need to obey God; let God lead us. Third, we should reach out to people outside our comfort zones. The lost are often in these spaces. Fourth, we can look for those God is reaching or softening. God is always at work and places people in our path. Our job is to be on the lookout for them. And finally, we must be able to disregard the criticism, which will surely come.
God, however painful, please make me aware of any preconceived ideas and prejudices that are blinding me from Your truth. Give me the courage to listen and obey and always fear You above other people. I want to know and follow Your Truth, Your Way, Your Life.
All 1 1 Corinthians 1 Peter 1 Thessalonians 1 Timothy 2 & 3 John 2 Corinthians 2 Peter 2 Thessalonians 2 Timothy Acts Colossians Ephesians Galatians Hebrews Info James John Jude Luke Mark Matthew Philemon Philippians Revelation Romans TItus