We’re studying this week how Peter, one of the first Christian leaders, received instructions to meet with a non-Jew named Cornelius, even though he would make Peter unclean. God gave him a vision of many animals, including unclean ones, and told him he could eat anything now. Dietary rules weren’t going to stand between God’s good news and human beings any more.
After Peter explains that God show no partiality, he continues with a speech about the history of Judaism, and how God was preparing them for his grace shown through Jesus.
Jesus is the emphasis in this entire speech. He was the one who hinted that the Gentiles, non-Jews, could actually be in God’s kingdom. Now Peter’s just realized they won’t do that by becoming Jews first, at least in terms of their dietary rules, but will be welcomed in by grace.
Is there a two track system? The Jews are saved from sin by eating right and living well, and the Gentiles are saved by grace? No way. Everyone is saved by grace. The Jews have a long history of God showing them grace, with his saving them from slavery in Egypt the most notable. He gave them ways to give thanks for that grace, and to bless and preserve them as a people dedicated to God until Jesus came to bless the entire world. Jesus would fulfil the law.
The same grace saves both Jew and Gentile, even if their experience of that grace has been quite different.
Today, things are a bit different. Most Christians in the world were not Jews first, and haven’t even considered the idea of adopting that religion and its dietary laws first.
But, Christianity can be so associated with Western European and North American culture today that this becomes a barrier to others receiving God’s grace. We can let cultural aspects of Christianity become a barrier to those from other cultures who can’t tell what’s cultural and what’s religious about our various traditions.
Or, a church can be so inward looking that it uses language, programs and events that others simply don’t know or understand.
We want to avoid setting up barriers between people and their leaning about Jesus.
Challenge: Cross a cultural or religious barrier today. Have a meal at a new restaurant with foreign cuisine, or visit another place of worship. Take note of how you had to adapt, and how they adapted to you. How does this apply to sharing good news of Jesus?
Meeting with a Group? Your discussion questions are in this week’s Group Study Guide[permalink append=”#comments”]Discuss the Challenge[/permalink]