The tenth chapter of the Book of Acts begins with an angel of God coming to Cornelius, a gentile. Cornelius and his entire household feared God and did good deeds such as giving to the poor and praying fervently. The angel came to Cornelius unexpectedly and said, “Your prayers and your alms have ascended as a memorial before God,” and he gave Cornelius instructions to send his servants to find the Apostle Peter.
What is God doing, sending a message to a gentile? The Jews are his chosen people; why would God acknowledge the prayers and alms of a non-Jew? I imagine that the average Jew in Cornelius’s day would have looked on Cornelius with scorn or jealousy.
As Christians, we often look on people from other faith groups with disdain. Many of us, myself included, have failed to fully accept people from a denomination or religion that is unlike our own. There are countless disagreements and arguments between Christian and Jew, Protestant and Catholic, Charismatic and Conservative…the list goes on. Most Jews would have labeled Cornelius as “other” in the same way that many of us label others today.
After Cornelius’s vision, the scene shifts to focus on Peter. Peter ascended to the rooftop to pray, and he began to receive a vision. A blanket covered with animals that were forbidden for consumption by a Jew. Peter heard a voice say, “Get up, Peter; kill and eat.” Peter would not obey the voice; for his entire life he had followed Jewish custom by abstaining from eating unclean animals, and he was not about to change his ways. In response, the voice said, “What God has called clean, you must not call profane.” This happened three times, but Peter did not understand the vision.
Soon after receiving the vision, Peter was greeted by the men Cornelius had sent to retrieve him. The men explained to Peter that Cornelius had received a message from an angel of God, and they asked him to return with them to Cornelius’s home. Peter, prompted by the Spirit, agreed to their request.
Upon arriving at Cornelius’s dwelling, Peter explained to Cornelius that, as a Jew, he was not permitted to associate with gentiles. But God had revealed to him that he was not to call unclean those that God had deemed clean. He said to Cornelius and his household, “I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.” Peter preached the Gospel to them, and everyone in the household was baptized and received salvation.
God shows no partiality. He has offered his love to all who would receive it. Although our God is impartial, we often fail to reflect that characteristic in our own lives. We rarely take the time to listen to, understand, and show love to people that come from a different tradition or background than we do.
The most important lesson that I’ve learned during my time at Nyack College is that God does not show partiality. He did not extend his love to me, people like me, and no one else. He extended it to whoever will believe in him.
Nyack College intentionally creates a diverse atmosphere and allows for differing views to coexist. At Nyack I have experienced different cultures, worship styles, theologies, and religious views. At times this has challenged me, but more often it has enlightened me. Instead of allowing my views of others to be formed by hearsay and superstition, I have learned to take the time to listen to and understand different people’s opinions. I thank God for the environment with which Nyack has provided me; it has made me more fully appreciate God’s far-reaching, impartial love. It has taught me not to call profane those whom God has called holy.