Acts 10 – Peter’s Change of Heart

The ancient Greeks divided up the human race into two categories: Greeks and arbarians. The barbarian was literally a man who could not speak Greek, and so his words sounded to the Greek ear like “bar bar.” One Greek historian asked rhetorically, “How can men who can only bark ever rule the world?” Prejudice is not eradicated with brilliance, since Aristotle believed that the world’s climate maintained the difference between Greeks and barbarians. He explained that those who lived in the cold lands to the north had plenty of courage and spirit, but little skill and intelligence. Those who lived in the warm south had plenty of skill, intelligence, and culture, but little spirit and courage. Only the Greeks lived in a climate designed by nature to produce the perfectly blended character.

We may chuckle at Aristotle’s theory, but we’re all prone toward prejudice in some form or another. But for God to use us effectively in His purpose, He must break us of our prejudices. To be prejudiced is to pre-judge someone without sufficient information. The story of the gospel spreading beyond Jewish boundaries toward the Gentiles teaches us from the life of Peter that … We all have built-in prejudices that God must break down if we are going to be effective in His service.

I know what you’re thinking: “Most people are prone to prejudice. But, thank God, that’s not one of my weaknesses! I am very unbiased, accepting, and loving.” But the fact is, even committed Christians, even godly men like Peter, have prejudices. Like Peter, we’re probably blind to those prejudices until the Lord shocks us into seeing them.

I could point out many ways that we are prone to be prejudiced. We all tend to group people by race or occupation, and then we pigeonhole individuals and judge them because they belong to the group. Peter easily could have thought, “Centurions are Roman soldiers and are wicked, sensual, worldly pagans.” He would have badly misjudged Cornelius. Cornelius could have thought, “I’m supposed to learn from an uneducated Jewish man who is staying with a tanner? He probably has never been outside of Palestine. What could he teach a well-traveled Roman like me?” He would have missed God’s blessing. Like Peter, most of us use the Bible to justify our prejudices and to read it through the lens of our prejudices. After all, the Bible warned Israel about associating with the pagan idolaters of the nations around them. The Bible showed them that they would be contaminated by contact with these “uncircumcised dogs.” Peter and the other apostles had heard Jesus give the Great Commission on more than one occasion. Yet up to this time, they were still reaching out primarily to Jews. They probably thought that reaching those in the uttermost parts of the earth referred to Jewish families who were scattered abroad. But to reach out to pagan Gentiles was simply unthinkable! They could quote chapter and verse out of the Old Testament to back up their views.

If we do not face our prejudices and allow God to root them out, we will not be effective in reaching across cultural and personal barriers with the gospel. If you are prejudiced against Native Americans or blacks, how will you reach them with the gospel? If you hate homosexuals (the people, not the sin), how will you lead them to Jesus Christ? If you steer clear of young people with body piercings and tattoos, how can God use you to bring the gospel to them?

Steven Cole

Heart Preparation
Read Acts 10. If a stinky person or a socially awkward person or a snobby person or name your group of person were to walk into Covenant Life’s service would you be the first to greet them? Where can you better demonstrated the love of Christ by breaking down these walls?

Posted on: September 19, 2013 - 5:36PM

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