We are each on a path, a journey of our own. There are many things that help set us on these paths: different circumstances around us, the home, the parenting, and the “religion” we were born into, schools we chose to attend or not, degrees we put to use or didn’t, along with possibly moving around for various reasons or always having stayed in the same area where you were raised. When you look at YOUR own journey, do you ever feel like you are on a path different from what you’ve ever imagined you would be doing, maybe even a path that causes others (possibly even family) to question your motives, testimony, or upbringing?
Did you know there is someone else who could have been questioned, judged, even possibly shunned behind his back? His name was Peter. He was Jewish. And the Jews knew that God loved them. According to the Jews, the Gentiles (everyone else) were “unclean” people, ones you never associated yourselves with. According to the Jews, God didn’t love the Gentiles, but was partial to them. A man named Cornelius, an officer in the Roman Army, was a Gentile. He lived in a city about 30 miles away from Peter.
Have you been raised to “keep away” from certain people, encouraged not to mingle or really, truly “talk” to the “sinners” out there? Maybe you have become or always have been one of those “sinners” you were encouraged not to hang out with!
In Acts 10, God gives Peter and Cornelius each their own visions. Cornelius knew he needed this Jew, Peter, to come to his house to speak what God wanted him and his family to hear. When Peter gets a knock on his door asking him to go to this “Gentile” town, Peter could have stepped back and questioned, worried, and feared what everyone else would think of him.
I imagine his thoughts could have been something along these lines “I can’t go to that house! God couldn’t have possibly spoken to this Gentile man, could He have? What will my neighbors think, my family, my mom and dad? What will my friends think when I don’t show up today and they find out I’m over in that town?” Sound familiar? Ever had these thoughts linger in your own mind? Has guilt or influence stopped you from doing something that you knew in your mind couldn’t possibly be “wrong”, even though you’ve been told it is?
Did Peter have these thoughts or hesitation? Not one ounce. In Acts 10:28, when Peter reached Cornelius’ house, he said to him, “You know how unlawful it is for a Jewish man to keep company with or go to one of another nation. But God has shown me that I shouldn’t call any man common or unclean. So I came without objection as soon as I was sent for.”
What would it be like if we each knew and understood that this was God’s heart? That we shouldn’t call any man common or unclean? And judgment was able to slip away and be replaced by love? Could it possibly be that God DOES speak to more than just one “type” of person?
Peter walks into Cornelius’ home and it’s filled with all of his family. He had a captive audience who was hungering and yearning to hear what message God had for them, yet at the same time, they really didn’t even know what this God was all about. This was a man who certainly knew to be good, who knew the importance of following the laws of the land, who must have taught his family right from wrong. But he still had a deeper yearning to learn something more.
Think about that moment as Peter’s eyes scanned the room, in unbelief, at this room of “unclean” people, as he had been taught to believe. In those seconds, God gave Peter a fresh vision for a new, captivated audience that had never been touched before, the rest of the World. I imagine Peter knew in that moment what a God of unconditional love He must be, one that wants ALL to believe in Him.
Acts 10:34 Peter says, “I perceive that God shows no partiality.”
He then shares that after Jesus was baptized, the Holy Spirit anointed Jesus and gave Him power to heal, how He was hung on a tree to die, and that He rose the third day. Peter ends with, “through His name, whoever believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins.” (Acts 10:42) While Peter was speaking, the Holy Spirit came upon the ones in that room who believed. The ones who came with Peter were amazed because it was made clear that Jesus had been sent for the Gentiles too. Did you get that? While Peter was speaking the words, it penetrated their hearts in that moment, and the Holy Spirit came and filled them.
When Peter went back to the Jews to explain this incredible excitement, he tells them how the Angel came to Cornelius to explain that he, Peter, would teach them how to be “saved”. This family, the ones who believed as they listened to Peter speaking, understood salvation as they accepted in their hearts what Christ had done! What astounds me even more is how Peter’s community didn’t send him to the stake, mock and ridicule him, or judge and shun him. No, the Jewish people accepted, trusted, and believed this man Peter, as he told them.
Have you ever allowed yourself to question anything in your life? I myself have questioned, “why do I believe what I do?” I don’t want to hear, “oh that’s because it’s hundreds and hundreds of years of the tradition of this religion or that religion”. Though you were born into the family of God’s choosing and though you were raised with or without a certain religion, have you allowed God to show you the answers Himself? When I allowed God to be the one to show me answers in His word, getting non-biased opinions (yet Godly counsel) from ones God had put directly into my path, along with prayer, my life started to become a freedom I had only ached to have. Chains began breaking off, checklists (which helped me “earn” God’s love) went through the shredder, and God’s grace and mercy began taking root in my heart. I have realized that while I am completely dead in my sin and can be nothing without this Jesus, I don’t need a life preserver for Him to throw to me, in order to save me. He dives into that ocean, while I am already dead at the bottom, rescues me, brings me to shore, and breathes new life into my very soul. I don’t have to do the work to pull myself into shore, He has already done the work for me!
Like Peter, God may come along and ask you to do something that is against what you’ve been taught or how you’ve been raised. As you seek Him in His word, God may step in with plans that cause you to question, fear, even doubt. Just like He used Peter, He may want to use you to speak fresh vision into a new and hungry land. He just may show up and ask you to do the thing that could shun you from your people or your family. As God gives you a fresh vision, all of a sudden, a whole new generation can be brought to Him and Heaven could swell with new souls who have found Him because you were willing to go against the grain.
Because Peter was willing to be seen with Cornelius and his family, because he was willing to share with them what God wanted them to hear, how to believe in Him, the Jewish race finally understood that Jesus had died for the Gentiles also. And because of this, I get to reap the benefits of Peter’s “ah-ha” moment that he had thousands of years earlier. I sit here today, a Gentile, able to type out this blog and share with you about God’s grace and His utmost desire for you to have faith, to believe in Him, and to allow Him to be your stronghold and your salvation.
Acts 10:43 “Whoever BELIEVES in Him will have remission of sins…”
For kicks, why not mix in a little excitement to this life of yours and add in a little of this Jesus to your pot? Isn’t it time?
So get out there and “Believe with Abandon”!