By Chuck Griffin
Today’s reading is an extended narrative from Acts. I would encourage you to spend a few minutes reading the story of Cornelius, Peter and a rooftop vision, either by using the link above or finding it in your personal Bible.
From there, let me simply provide you with a guide to meditating on this important story.
Most of you raised in church likely have at least a rough understanding of what Jews meant by “clean” and “unclean.” As a people set apart by God, it was the Jews’ role to demonstrate ritually their separateness by avoiding activities and objects the non-Jewish world might find normal. Certain actions unique to Jews at the time—circumcision, for example—also were required to set them apart.
This story in Acts is critically important because it demonstrates that the Jewish messiah’s death on the cross has made it possible for all people to be restored to God. A common theme of the New Testament is how difficult it was for Jewish Christians, Peter included, to let go of this separateness in order to spread the Good News. Many were reluctant to go among Gentiles, and some demanded the Gentiles adopt Jewish behaviors in order to follow Jesus Christ. A council of Christian leaders finally had to settle the matter.
We who are of non-Jewish descent should be particularly thankful for the expansive nature of God’s grace. “For God so loved the world ….”
This story also should challenge us now, just as the Jewish Christians were then challenged.
- How do we let our own ideas about cleanliness and uncleanliness impact where we tell the Good News?
- Can people be so different from us that we ignore their need to hear about Jesus Christ?
- To be Christian, people need to reject sin and accept Jesus Christ as Savior. But do we sometimes try to impose additional burdens?
Let’s always be watching for a good-hearted Cornelius who awaits word of salvation.
Lord, thank you for your ever-expanding grace, which is capable of penetrating all cultures and all individual circumstances. Amen.