Acts 10:25 On Peter's arrival Cornelius met him, and falling at his feet, worshipped him. 26 But Peter made him get up, saying, "Stand up; I am only a mortal." 27 And as he talked with him, he went in and found that many had assembled; 28 and he said to them, "You yourselves know that it is unlawful for a Jew to associate with or to visit a Gentile; but God has shown me that I should not call anyone profane or unclean. 29 So when I was sent for, I came without objection. Now may I ask why you sent for me?" 30 Cornelius replied, "Four days ago at this very hour, at three o'clock, I was praying in my house when suddenly a man in dazzling clothes stood before me. 31 He said, 'Cornelius, your prayer has been heard and your alms have been remembered before God. 32 Send therefore to Joppa and ask for Simon, who is called Peter; he is staying in the home of Simon, a tanner, by the sea.' 33 Therefore I sent for you immediately, and you have been kind enough to come. So now all of us are here in the presence of God to listen to all that the Lord has commanded you to say." 34 Then Peter began to speak to them: "I truly understand that God shows no partiality, 35 but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. 36 You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ--he is Lord of all.
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.
The Scripture passage for the day is drawn from Reuben Job and Norman Shawchuck, A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and other Servants, (Nashville, The Upper Room 1983), 71.
This reflection is from my own devotional exercises for the day.