By Charles Harris
Today's Scripture: Acts 10:1-23a
Central Thought: A Personal Antidiscrimination Policy God forbids His followers from calling anyone common and unclean that He considers acceptable in His sight.
Racial prejudice is a terrible thing in any society. Nothing could be more unreasonable than to accept or reject persons on the basis of varying shades of skin color. The names of two early African-American leaders, Booker T. Washington and George Washington Carver, stand out as exerting the energies of a lifetime - in working toward the day, when the citizens of their country would respect other persons, for what they are - rather than for what they look like.
Ethnic bias is even worse when it displays itself in religious circles. As a product of his culture, Peter thought it unacceptable to associate with non-Jewish people. The Lord worked mightily and miraculously to change the apostle's heart in the matter.
Cornelius, a devout Gentile and an officer in the mighty Roman army, sought after God. He did not find Him in the worship of the pagan gods of Rome. Thus he turned to Judaism in his search. He began attending a synagogue. Though its leaders required him to sit in the back section assigned to non-Jewish people, he supported the congregation financially, contributing to its building fund, and contributing alms to the needy of the area. Yet, a man with all these qualities still needed Jesus.
In response to an extended time of fasting and prayer, the Lord directed Cornelius to summon Peter to his house to inform him of the way of salvation. It is not likely that Cornelius sought to experience a vision or to see an angel. Yet God granted both to him. Instead of having the angel give him the gospel, He sent the hungry heart to a fellow human being. The captain obediently sent representatives to invite the apostle to his house.
When the centurion's messengers arrived, Peter was engaged in earnest prayer. Maybe he was seeking for the salvation of lost souls, though he likely did not envision them to include Gentiles. In that moment, however, God gave the apostle a vision. Its message was that he should cease to call any person common or unclean—because God accepts all who come to Him. Informed of the military man's couriers at the door, the angel of his vision instructed Peter to accept the seeking Gentile's invitation to go to his house.
The experience made clear to Peter that God shows no partiality in relating to human beings. Any true follower of His will have the same attitude. How sad that a government sometimes must pass laws to curb discrimination on the basis of ethnic origin. Heaven forbid that such action is necessary to get believers to treat everyone, regardless of their backgrounds, with equal warmth and fairness.
Devotional Prayer: Lord, free my heart of any racial prejudice that I may have. Help me to relate to all people as fellow human beings. May I truly follow Jesus who came to earth to seek and to save all who are lost.
Today's Bible Reading: 1 Kings 14:1-15:24; Acts 10:1-23a; Psalm 133:1-3; Proverbs 17:7-8