April 12, 2017
By Cheryl Anderson.
Scripture: Acts 10:34-35 ( The Spoken English New Testament – translation by J. Webb Mealy)
So Peter began to speak. He said, “I really understand that God doesn’t regard some people as better than others. No—in every nation, the person who reveres God and does what is right is acceptable to God."
This chapter begins with a Roman centurion named Cornelius having a vision one afternoon in which he was instructed to send for a man named Simon, who is called Peter, and listen to what he had to say. So he sends some of his underlings to Joppa to find and bring back this man Simon who is called Peter.
Meanwhile, Peter was having a vision of his own, in which God showed him that the things and people that he’d had been taught were “unclean,” were not unclean in God’s eyes. Just as Peter’s vision ends, Cornelius’s men arrive looking for him. And the Spirit tells Peter to go with these gentiles, who previously, Peter “knew” to be unclean. That is what he had been taught his whole life.
An observant Jew would not enter the home of a non-Jew and especially never eat with them. But, because of his recent spiritual experience, Peter went with the men to Cornelius’s house and shared the gospel with all the gentiles that Cornelius had gathered to hear the story. So this was a brand new truth to Peter when he said, “I really understand that God doesn’t regard some people as better than others.”
Peter’s vision taught him that some of the things that he “knew” about God were wrong—that God does not, after all, choose among us. God does not prefer one nation to another, or one race to another, or one gender to the other, or even one religion to another. “In every nation,” he says, “the person who reveres God and does what is right, is acceptable to God.”
According to Jesus, what is “right” has nothing to do with following certain rituals or believing the correct things. Loving God with all your heart and soul and mind and strength; and loving your neighbor as yourself is “doing what is right.”
It is human nature to want to set conditions on the unconditional love of God. And throughout history, groups of people have ascribed their own cultural prejudices to God. That has been and still is in many places true in the church, and it is shockingly true in our nation right now.
Following the living Christ means treating all people with compassion and forgiveness, caring for the aliens and refugees among us, liberating the oppressed, and helping people understand that some of the things they “know” about God might be wrong.
Loving God, open the eyes of our hearts that we might see all your children through the lens of your unconditional love – even the ones with whom we disagree.
Rev. Cheryl P Anderson is pastor of First Congregational Church, UCC, in Washington, CT.
April 12, 2017