Thursday, October 18, 2012
Not a God of Partiality
Acts 10:34 ¶ Then Peter began to speak to them: “I truly understand that God shows no partiality,
Acts 10:35 but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.
Peter answered the call of God and moved out of his comfort zone to a people whom he had always considered unclean. This experience was for him personally, but also corporately for the Jewish Christians who began to realize that the good news was for all the world. Peter's message here expresses the fact that God does not show partiality. God doesn't favor certain people over others. This was a huge statement because it meant that God did not favor the Jews over the rest of the world. The new covenant changed everything and now the door was open to the infilling of the Holy Spirit to all of those who would open their hearts and lives to God, allowing him to transform them into the people of God.
This statement by Peter is so very significant, the idea that God shows no partiality! It also means that we should show no partiality, and yet, I'm afraid it's so easy to do that just. If we think about it, we tend to feel the most comfortable with people who are like us. Who do we hang out with? Who do we minister to? And yet, God does not show any partiality!
If we think about it we tend to fall into patterns where we see "normal" as looking just like us. Whether it's the way that we define success, ministry, or even godliness. God shows no partiality to nationality, gender or race! The reality is that there are multitudes of cultures that exist in the world --even sometimes within our own microcosms. Where we live in East Ohio there are numerous cultures present in a very small geographic region. Being a student of Church History I've enjoyed learning about the different groups which settled in the area, but they have all left a lasting imprint on the region, and a different culture. The Friends who came over from Pennsylvania settled around Salem and were incredible people of peace who helped with the underground railroad during the civil war. The Scottish came, and continued to invite their friends from back home to come and settle in an area called the Scottish Mile, establishing numerous Presbyterian churches, and bringing with them their culture. The Moravians came and brought with them a deeply contemplative spiritual life and German-speaking culture, as well as a missionary spirit. The Amish and Mennonites came seeking freedom to be separate from the world and worship God in the way that they believed he was calling them. Our cities became populated with immigrants seeking work in an age of industrial revolution. Entire groups from the "old country" came and began to work in the steel mills, pottery factories and rubber plants. Communities of Italians, English, German, Greek and Easter Europeans began to dot the countryside. On this west-side of the Ohio river we were also a "free" state so that those who had been oppressed by slavery could move into the area and enjoy a new-found freedom. And today, the migration from the south continues as Spanish-speaking individuals move into the region. And not only from the South, but from South Asia as well and daily I see my neighbors walking through our community dressed in their clothing from their native India. Therefore, within a region that is only a two hour drive east-west and three hours north to south, numerous cultures can be found!
And yet -- I have to confess, our church looks rather monolithic! I think we would need to be willing to confess that we have been comfortable with those who are most like us and to reach out beyond those barriers makes us uncomfortable. Peter was extremely uncomfortable and didn't think he could do it -- until God got ahold of him and gave him a vision to reach beyond the barriers which had been placed around him. Now, he understood that God is not partial! All people who fear God and do what is right, are acceptable to him. If that is true, maybe we need to ask God to help us to break through the barriers which we may have personally created that keep us from reaching out to a very diverse world that is in need of knowing Christ.
Lord, please help me today to see the world with your eyes -- and love ALL of those who you have placed around me. Amen.