Reading: Acts 10:34-43
A friend had recently seen the film Selma, depicting the civil rights marches in 1965, and asked me, “Where were you when this was going on? Were you marching?” No, actually, I was in my final semester at an all-white college in the South, preparing to get married, and about to receive a commission as an officer in the U. S. Army. To be honest, I was more concerned about being sent to Vietnam (which eventually happened) than in the marches led by Dr. King in my native state of Alabama.
To be very clear, I was not hostile to equal rights for all people. I had been involved in biracial student meetings on a national level and was ready for change to happen, but I was not an activist. My paradigm had not shifted sufficiently that I was moved to action. My reality was rather limited.
In some ways, I was like Peter before the Spirit of God led him to share the Gospel with Cornelius, a Roman centurion and a Gentile. Peter was not necessarily hostile to the idea that God’s message was for all people, but he didn’t see it as his problem. His world had to change as did mine. He had to come to see that “God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right.” (Acts 10:34-35, NIV)
The words of Dr. King are prophetic as we consider the full implications of the Resurrection story for our world today. When Christ entered into the world, He came not just as a Jew, a citizen of Palestine, but as a human being. Thus, the message He proclaimed was not just for Jews or those who lived in Palestine but for all people everywhere for all time. The Book of Acts depicts how that message began to impact other cultures and peoples, sometimes with incendiary results. Once unleashed, the Resurrection message could not be stifled.
The challenge for us today is to be faithful with the Resurrection message in a way that reaches out to all of the peoples of the earth—many of whom are now our neighbors. Living out this Resurrection faith in our time and place may well require a fresh infusion of the power of the Spirit of God bringing with it a new paradigm of relationship and hospitality. If you are not both enthused and frightened by this possibility, you fail to grasp the full implications of the Gospel. Perhaps God will give us the vision that Peter received. I pray it would be so.