Devotional: February 4, 2021
While Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard the word. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles, for they heard them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter said, ‘Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?’ So he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they invited him to stay for several days.
Acts 10: 44-48 NRSV
Prejudice has occurred literally since the days of the bible. Peter, along with all the disciples, were Jewish. Here Peter is speaking to a large crowd and telling them that the gift of the Holy Spirit is available for everyone. Guess what? The crowd did not consist of only Jewish people. Those present were astounded to hear that Jesus had not only died for their sins of Jews, but for Gentiles (non-Jews), as well.
This passage should make us aware of what the bible has to say about race relations. February is Black History month in our country. We do not have to go back very far in our nation's history to understand why we set aside this time to learn about and reflect upon race relations.
It is not an accident that this passage is in the scriptures, for even back in the time when it was written, relationships between different cultures were a struggle.
The book of Acts is the story of the birth of the Christian church. It is a time of incredible growth, and mission for the new church. Widows and orphans are cared for. A generous spirit of sharing is seen among every single believer. The church is off to a good start.
Yet even though God is doing some amazing things among the leaders of the early church, almost all of whom were Jewish, many were still suspicious of non-Jews. There were some who were not sure the gospel was meant for Gentiles. In fact, there are times when “Gentile” and “sinner” are used almost interchangeably in the scriptures!
Here, the Holy Spirit has led Peter to preach to everyone. God touches their hearts, and they receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Those within Peter’s inner circle are stunned. Yet after God pours out the Holy Spirit upon the Gentiles, Peter asks the rhetorical question, “Can anyone withhold the water of baptism from these people when God has poured His Spirit out upon them?” It is a good question, and the answer is obvious.
Still, there were some in the early church who were unsure about whether God was behind this “gospel to the Gentiles”. In the next chapter of Acts, there is a meeting among all the early Jewish church leaders about this very issue. Peter shares with them his experiences with the Gentiles, and then he goes further and tells them about the guiding dream the Lord had given him regarding the laws and rituals around the Jewish food. After hearing from Peter, the leaders are silent for a moment. Then, they begin praising God for His work among the Gentiles. This was truly a miracle unfolding.
From that point on, the Christian church has been a multi-racial church. Sometimes, the church embraced this calling. Other times, it struggled with it. We see these same racial divides still within the human race today. Some tend to pick and choose which parts of the scripture line up with what they feel comfortable with. Thank the Lord, that He is not selective with us, choosing only those who act or look a certain way. All peoples and all colors are created by the Lord, and He loves every detail about what He has created. He does not withhold his Love from anyone. What a wonderful reminder for all of us.
Thank you, Lord, that You have not held back even the tiniest amount of love for me. You see me for who I am, with all my flaws, yet You still embrace and love me. Forgive me when I do not reflect that love You have unconditionally given me, to others. Help me when I feel uncomfortable about sharing Your message. May I find strength in You, to be the messenger You have designated me to be.
Humbly I pray this prayer in Jesus’ name, Amen