Daily Devotion – June 25, 2020 – Erin Bjerke
Acts 10:28, 44-48
28and [Peter] said to them, “You yourselves know that it is unlawful for a Jew to associate with or to visit a Gentile; but God has shown me that I should not call anyone profane or unclean.”
44While Peter was still speaking [about Jesus], the Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard the word. 45The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles, 46for they heard them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter said, 47Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have? 48So he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they invited him to stay for several days.
I encourage you to read the entire story of Cornelius and Peter in Acts 10, but I will summarize it here for you.
There was a man named Cornelius who was a Roman army official. Cornelius and his entire household were devout believers in God, even though they were not Jewish. One day, God gave Cornelius a vision of an angel telling him to send for Peter, to hear what he had to say. As Cornelius’s messengers were going to see Peter, Peter was praying. God gave him a vision of a sheet coming down from heaven with all kinds of animals on it: four-footed animals, reptiles, and birds. All of these animals were considered unclean by the Jewish dietary laws, yet God told Peter to “kill and eat.” Of course, Peter, being a law-abiding Jew, protested, but God replied, “What God has made clean, you must not call profane.”
Then Cornelius’s messengers arrived and asked Peter to come to Cornelius’s house with them. Peter went with them, and he told all of Cornelius’s family and close friends about Jesus. While Peter was talking, it became obvious that all of the people gathered there, even though they were Gentiles, had received the Holy Spirit. Peter realized that he could not withhold baptism from these people, so he had them baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then he stayed with them for several days.
At this time in history, it was unheard of for a Jew to even speak to a Gentile, or someone who was not Jewish, let alone visit him at his house! Peter had been brought up following the Jewish law and believed, like the other Jews, that Gentiles were unclean and not to be associated with. He must have been surprised when he received that vision from God!
We all have prejudices embedded into our worldview. What are yours? For Peter, it was the belief that Gentiles were unclean and inferior to the Jews. I’ve been contemplating lately what my own prejudices are. One example is the belief that certain types of people or certain parts of town are dangerous. I’ve learned lately that even something like ignoring the issue of racism (because it doesn’t affect me, right?) is dangerous because it can perpetuate unconscious prejudices and lead us to act on them without realizing it.
The reality is that we don’t get to choose who receives the Holy Spirit—God chooses. Peter was called to love his neighbor Cornelius and his family, and we are called to love our neighbors, no matter where they live or the color of their skin, whether they’re rich or poor, documented or undocumented, whether they practice a different faith than we do or a different branch of our own faith… you name it.
Prayer: Lord, teach us to love our neighbors. Show us our own prejudices, so that we may learn to combat them. When we look at others who are different from us, let us not see people who are to be feared or avoided, but people who are made in Your image, representing different facets of who You are.