I was greatly encouraged during the week to hear how some of the people of our church are involved in voluntary work programs in the local hospitals and nursing homes. These people are a real blessing to others who are going through difficult times. It seems that our people are crossing the cultural divide and showing the love of Jesus to people of different nationalities. This was a far cry from the early Christians. They were all converted Jews and together with the Apostles were slow in understanding God’s heart for the people of all nations. I guess it is so easy for us to stick together in our own cultural groupings. Yet God calls us to be different and in particular when we are charged with the awesome responsibility of sharing the good news of Jesus with all people.
The apostle Peter is used as an example for us to indicate just how slow we can be when it comes to crossing ethnic barriers. Surely he should have known better! But he was not alone as all the converted Jews chose to share the gospel only with other Jews scattered throughout Judea and Samaria and even further afield! So, God, in His sovereign rule, decided to bring about a change of understanding in their hearts. The Roman Centurion Cornelius was to be the catalyst for a dramatic change in the early Christians world view. Through a vision Cornelius was told to summon Peter to come and share with him the great mystery of the gospel. Also through a vision Peter was prepared by God to meet Cornelius who was an uncircumcised Jew, and an Italian, for that matter.
This account of dramatic transformation of world views from Luke is great reading and I must confess I was surprised at just how deep seated the reluctance of sharing the gospel with Gentiles was in the lives of these early Christians. Once their eyes were finally opened and ‘the light came on’, the gospel really spread quickly and God’s mission really proved unstoppable. We too need to be constantly reminded of how easy it is to slip back into the tendency to only want to share the gospel to those within our own culture! Praise the Lord that we are making every effort to reach out to our community here in Kogarah! What a great opportunity we have!