No Common Person.
Sometimes I wonder why, we as Christians, put so many obstacles in our own way. We allow anything that is not common to us or culturally acceptable to determine our actions toward someone. I get it. It’s hard to love the “hard to love”, but has God called us to only do it when it is easy, convenient, culturally in sync, non taboo, etc., ?
Let’s examine Acts 10. There is a story about a centurion of the Italian court named Cornelius. In Acts 10: 1-8 we get an idea of the kind of man Cornelius is… a giver, devout, God-fearing. He receives a visit from “the angel of the Lord” and is told to go find the Apostle Peter.
The next day, Peter receives a weird vision. He goes up to the rooftop to pray. While there, the Lord descends a blanket full of all kinds of reptiles, birds and animals. He hears the Lord tell him to kill and eat. This action happens 3 times and each time Peter’s response is “By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean”. Each time the Lord tells him “What God has made clean, do not call common”.
Peter had no idea what all this meant. He was perplexed, until Cornelius’ men arrived to ask Peter to accompany them back to Caesarea to see Cornelius. Peter listened to the Lord and followed. When he arrived he saw Cornelius’ house filled with Gentiles.
Understand that Peter believed strongly in the Jewish law that forbid Jews from visiting with anyone from another nation, but the vision he had earlier, suddenly made sense and he says aloud in 10:28-29: “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. So when I was sent for, I came without objection. I ask then why you sent for me.”
Cornelius explains what he saw to Peter then Peter gives the gospel. He gives it very simply in verse 34-43
34 So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, 35 but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. 36 As for the word that he sent to Israel, preaching good news of peace through Jesus Christ (he is Lord of all), 37 you yourselves know what happened throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John proclaimed: 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. 39 And we are witnesses of all that he did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree, 40 but God raised him on the third day and made him to appear, 41 not to all the people but to us who had been chosen by God as witnesses, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42 And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead. 43 To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”
After this, the Holy Spirit descends and all the non Jewish people began speaking in tongues and extolling God. The Jewish people with Peter were amazed because they did not know this was possible!
Reading this passage and thinking about it, I was so convicted. How often do I do this? Declaring in my mind or even from my mouth that this person or that person could not possibly be saved! I love this passage because we are not shown or told of these people’s sins. We only know that they heard the gospel and the Holy Spirit bore witness to the Jews giving it.
So as we give the gospel, let’s get out of the way of the Holy Spirit. Let’s not draw lines in the sand about whether someone is this or that. Instead, continually give the gospel and allow the Holy Spirit to work and convict in the hearts of sinners… like he does with you and I.