Peter lived in a world that believed each nation had its own god. The Jewish people went one step further by insisting that their version of divinity was better than anyone else. They often claimed that they alone worshipped the One True God, and all other cultures followed false gods, and therefore were unclean.
Acts Chapter 10 recounts a systematic dismantling of this belief. Peter discovers that the One True God of his Jewish faith communicates with Cornelius, who as a Roman soldier from Italy would have followed Roman culture in his religious faith and practice. In amazement he acknowledges: “You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ--he is Lord of all.” (Acts 10:36). Peter accepts that the religious beliefs and practices of another culture are not unclean, because they too can access the same God that he follows.
This is something that the followers of Jesus struggle to hear. Many teach that God only pays attention to Christians - a belief that borders on calling all other religious faiths “unclean”. I am inviting us to re-learn the lesson of Peter: that all people are loved by the Creator God, and we dare not call anyone profane or unclean (Acts 10:28). Let us learn to respect and honour those of another religious belief as sons and daughters of God – and as our brothers and sisters.
Prayer: Father God – teach me how to love all your children as my brothers and sisters – even when they believe in you in ways that I do not understand. Amen.
Fourth Sunday after Epiphany“The Authority of God’s Word”
(Scripture reference page 71 A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and other Servants)