Many churches throughout the world use a Bible reading schedule called a "lectionary." It's just a fancy word meaning "selected readings." Posts like this reflect on the readings for an upcoming Sunday or other Church holiday, as found in the three-year lectionary.
Acts chapter ten describes a development in the attitudes of the early Christians which would quite literally revolutionize the young Church. Here, when confronted with a group of Gentiles who wanted to hear about Jesus, the apostle Peter recognized that, regardless of ethnic background, Jesus is the Lord. His mercy and grace are available to all nations, even those who had never been a part of God’s chosen people, Israel.
In the nationalism prevalent throughout antiquity, and in culture after culture we can study all around the world, people have always considered their own group to be superior to others. The Jews were God’s chosen people. The Romans considered themselves the relevant superpower. In many parts of the world, it is not nationality but family or tribal background that shapes an identity.
All this went out the window in Acts 10. Peter recognized that God is the Lord of the Gentiles as well as the Jews. He recognized that, thanks to Jesus’ death and resurrection, there was no essential difference between people from different cultures. And as the household of Cornelius heard that Jesus was the savior, they apparently believed, because the Holy Spirit fell upon them, showing miraculous signs. This was adequate demonstration that Peter made sure the household could be baptized, entering visibly into God’s kingdom.
This doesn’t mean that every culture is equal to every other culture. It doesn’t mean that everyone is a Christian. Just because Jesus died for the sins of the world the household of Cornelius was not automatically redeemed. But when they heard and believed the truth, they were adopted into Christ’s kingdom just as the apostles in Jerusalem were.
Likewise, today, Christians will still make the claims of Christ clear. He is the way, the truth, the life, the only way to the Father. But this gracious message is equally for people from every nation. There is therefore no room for rejecting people on the basis of their color, their language, their background, or any other such measure. If Jesus is Lord, he is Lord for every culture in the world.
The acceptance and care for people of different backgrounds is a distinctively Christian cultural feature. Thankfully, many cultures have adopted this acceptance as a key to their worldview. Where it is violated, it is the obligation of Christians to speak up, to act in kindness and fairness, to bring the good news of the gospel of redemption in Jesus to all.
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