Read Acts 10:23-33
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.” (THE MESSAGE)
We can so often think that the Christian faith is for a certain sort of person. Our language and our church formats sometimes reinforce this. A high degree of literacy is needed. Or some basic sort of respectability. You need to be moderately good-looking at least. You need to be able to fit in with the sort of crowd we worship with.
Of course we don’t do this deliberately or consciously. It is just that this is the way it can seem. It may have seemed that way to Cornelius in our text today. He was not Jewish, was part of the Roman occupying powers. And yet he was what we might call ‘a good bloke’. He was a God seeker and it is only right and natural that God honoured his seeking.
But the instrument God chose, Peter, had first of all to put aside some ingrained prejudices. Despite all Jesus had taught, despite the Old Testament insistence on the Jews being a blessing to all the world, Peter was still captive to his traditions. Old habits die hard. The ‘them and us’ mentality is difficult to break.
We need to believe God is at work with many people outside our own faith traditions and social circles. Just as he was at work in Cornelius. Our faith is good news for the whole world, not just people we favour. Our faith is not the expression of any particular culture or tradition. Jesus not only smashed down the locked and barred door of death, he also demolished the wall that isolates us from other peoples and cultures. Our faith is good news for all otherwise it is not good news at all.