No Distinctions

Acts 10:28 (ESV)
"And he said to them, “You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a Jew to associate with or to visit anyone of another nation, but God has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean."

I’ve written about this before, but it bears repeating: one of the biggest benefits to studying God’s Word regularly is that you can come across Scripture verses you have read many times in the past, but for some reason (re: the work of the Holy Spirit), when you read it again, you see it in an entirely new light that permits wonderful relevant application in our life.

Such was the case in reading the 10th chapter of Acts. It is in the interaction between Peter and Cornelius where we can not only see God’s plan take a major step in truly fulfilling the Great Commission to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19-20), but also in how we tend to focus on superficial aspects when encountering others.

While many Jewish believers were likely hesitant to embrace Gentile believers, the combination of Peter’s vision and the meeting requested by Cornelius, showed how God was directing both of these individuals towards the realization that God saw no distinction between Jew and Gentile.

Imagine what the Jewish believers felt when they witnessed the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on these Gentile believers, watching these non-Jews speak in tongues (Acts 10:45) in the same manner as the apostles and believers at Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4). Though they had long been God’s chosen people, they now realized the power of the Holy Spirit showed no such partiality. It was indeed a groundbreaking moment. This action by the Holy Spirit signifies God’s blessing and acceptance. In Acts 10:35, the Greek word for acceptance, dektos, refers to a welcoming and pleasing, meaning God’s favor shines on the Gentiles as well.

So what can we learn from this?

If we look back on Peter’s acknowledgment in Acts 10:28 on how Jews view it as unlawful to associate with a non-Jew because of their uncleanness, we can look forward to many Christians today and see a similar pattern of behavior. Because someone might dress differently or look differently, we tend to shy away from them in deference to people who are similar to us. This is clearly the way of the world and not what Christ would preach.

The world judges individuals quickly by their external characteristics—it is a natural tendency. But as those who have, through unmerited grace, received the Light of Jesus Christ, we should not behave in such a manner. We should see everyone as imago dei, and therefore be no respecter of outward appearance, instead searching the hearts of these individuals to effectively share God’s message. This requires back-and-forth conversation, and likely also requires multiple conversations. It’s called investing in people.

We cannot do this closed-minded; nor can we accomplish the Great Commission selectively through our own filters. When Samuel was searching for one of the sons of Jesse to anoint a new King, the Lord reminded him not to focus on outward appearance (1 Samuel 16:7), something He also expressed to Jeremiah (Jeremiah 17:10).

It is a heart transformed that is a measure of a Christian, not the results of a wardrobe makeover.

Let us resolve to put aside our worldly tendencies and make an effort to seek to know an individual by their heart. In doing so, we make advances in our own sanctification process.