Acts 10:34-35 “Then Peter began to speak: ‘I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right.'”
Does it seem strange to you that Peter says, “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism”? Maybe we take that for granted. How could a man who had spent three years with Jesus and been called as a missionary say, “Oh, now I get it. Now I understand. God treats everyone the same”?
As a Jew, Peter had grown up learning to avoid anyone who wasn’t a Jew. God had chosen the Jews to serve as guardians of his promises. That is why the Lord warned them not to associate too closely with the other nations and adopt their ways.
That did not mean God did not care about the rest of the world. The Jewish nation was to serve as a witness to them of his goodness. When the Jews lived and worshiped as God’s children, that was meant to draw those nations back to the Lord. Unfortunately, some felt they were better just because they were descendants of Abraham. They believed God’s promises were meant for them alone. It seems that Peter had been infected with some of this kind of thinking.
Before we criticize Peter too harshly, let’s take a look at ourselves. Many of us claim a Christian heritage in our families that stretches back more generations than we can trace. Thank God for that heritage! But we don’t get to pat ourselves on the back for it. We can gripe or worry about how evil the world is becoming. But if we do nothing except make them the enemy, that’s little more than self-righteousness. An inflated opinion of ourselves is just as dangerous to our souls as the perversions we condemn, maybe even more so.
Maybe we are tempted to favoritism. God isn’t. That’s why we can be a part of his family. “God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right.” Look at some of the people the Lord accepted into is family: Rahab the prostitute of Jericho; Ruth, the Moabitess; Naaman, the leprous enemy general from Syria.
Here, however, with Peter taking the gospel to Cornelius, a Roman, God was making a major policy change in the way he does business with the non-Jews. Until this time the message of the Savior was isolated from the rest of the world. It could be found in Israel, but there wasn’t a concerted evangelism campaign to spread the gospel to the other nations. Now the Lord was giving Peter and the church the command to go the Gentiles, to pursue them with God’s grace.
Do you see how you have been blessed? If I trace my ancestry, I have to trace it back through at least five different nationalities–German, English, Scotch, Irish, Swedish, and maybe even French. My children can add Spanish and American Indian. In Old Testament times, none of those peoples knew anything about the Gospel. Chances are my family and I would have been lost.
Most who are reading these words have also descended from Gentile families. That’s why Peter’s words are particularly good news for us. God accepts people from every nation into his family. He seeks them for himself. That’s why we were called to repentance, and forgiveness was preached to you and me. The Lord loves each of us as much as he has ever loved anyone else.
Maybe, like Peter, we can pass that love along.