Division or Diversity
Wednesday, June 12, 2019
While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message. All the circumcised believers who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also.
Most likely the church you attend on Sundays is predominantly made up of non-Jewish people. But that wasn’t the case in the early days of church history.
Immediately following Pentecost, as the church was breathed to life by the Holy Spirit, thousands of Jewish converts began the first church in Jerusalem.
Naturally, these Jewish converts felt they had a special role to play – a right to leadership as well as a voice that should be heard above any other. It wouldn’t be long before Jewish converts struggled with an influx of Gentile converts, who were as different from them as. They were as different from them as night is from day. Frankly, the Jews struggled to accept their Gentile neighbors.
Acts chapter 10 is a pivotal passage in the deconstruction of that Jewish/Gentile divide, as God uses a series of visions and miraculous events to explicitly reveal that the Holy Spirit is a gift for every believer. This paradigm shift will be a hard pill for Jews to swallow, even for godly disciples like Peter.
Earlier in Acts 10, in verses 9-12, God gave Peter an unusual vision of a sheet descending from heaven, full of “clean” and “unclean” animals, and then told him to “get up, kill and eat.” Peter, however, refused due to the fact that he didn’t want to violate Jewish Kosher laws. But God reprimands him and Peter reluctantly changes his mind.
In verses 17-43, as Peter is still mulling over the discomforting vision he received, God calls him to meet a Roman centurion named Cornelius who had received a vision from an angel only a few days before. When Peter meets Cornelius, observing his commitment to the gospel as well as the way God miraculously orchestrated his conversion, Peter makes this profound admission: “I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right, is welcome to Him.”
It suddenly made sense to Peter. The wall of separation between Jews and Gentiles was being breeched by the gospel of Christ. The paradigm shift would ultimately declare that the ground at the foot of the cross is level. Christianity had no class system. Both Jews and Gentiles, males and females, slaves and freemen were equally welcome into the church.
As a representative of Jewish sentiment, Peter wouldn’t easily overcome his nationalistic pride – or the traditions of his forefathers. Eating non-kosher meat and watching the Spirit equally empower Gentiles would be disconcerting to him, but he wouldn’t deny God’s hand in it all.
God was clearly the one orchestrating this Gentile Pentecost, and because of that, customs and culture no longer barred the doorway of fellowship in Christ.
Are your ideals and cultural preferences hindering you from accepting other believers in your church? How do you treat those believers who share different political views, dress standards, musical tastes or ethnic traditions? Is there partiality in your heart against them?
Don’t let your diet hinder you from discipleship. Don’t allow personal preferences to inhibit your praise. The Holy Spirit never intended to make us all alike. Unity is not the same thing as uniformity. The Lord is doing a diverse work in the lives of diverse people.
So let’s embrace the diversity and not allow our pride to create lasting division.
Prayer Point: Did someone come to your mind as you read this devotional? Thank God for the work He is doing in that fellow believer’s life, even though you can’t always see it. Then pray for Him to give you a spirit of humility toward those who share different ideals and convictions than you.
Extra Refreshment: Read the familiar story of Zacchaeus’ conversion in Luke 19:1-10. Notice especially the very last words Jesus says to him in verse 10, as they take us to the heart of Christian teaching and practice.