Then Peter began to speak to them: ‘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.’ (Acts 10:34)
The early church struggled with what to do with the Gentiles. Did they need to become Jews before they could become disciples of Jesus? Would the Jews and Gentiles be on equal terms, or would the Jews, the Chosen People, be a little more special than the others?
Peter’s realization and proclamation that God showed no partiality meant that the Gentiles would be accepted and included as full and equal members. How or when one group came to Jesus didn’t matter. What mattered was that Jesus celebrated and embraced all.
What do Peter’s words mean now? They mean that there’s no in-group and no out-group—all belong; that there’s no first class and no second class—all are sitting with Jesus; that there’s no varsity and no junior varsity—all are playing together.
When Peter said these words there was a mixed reaction. Some greeted them with joy. Others struggled to accept them.
How do we respond? If we have felt like we have been excluded or marginalized, these words must sound welcoming and liberating. But if we think we are just a little more special than others, and thereby more entitled to the good things in life, these words may be disappointing and challenging.
To those who have felt like second-class citizens I offer no more encouragement than Peter’s words.
But to those who may feel like “no partiality” means something has been taken away, may I encourage you to say this prayer until it opens up the depths of your heart: “Lord Jesus Christ, you stretched out your arms of love on the hard wood of the cross so that everyone might come within your saving embrace…”
(Book of Common Prayer, p. 101)
Because Jesus died with His arms open to everyone, there can never be any partiality in His name.
- Think of a time when someone showed partiality and didn’t include you. Why would you ever want someone to feel like you did?
- Think of another time when, unexpectedly, someone greeted and treated you as an equal. Why would you ever want someone to feel otherwise?
- One of our most important needs is to feel at home.When we show partiality, there’s no home. When we welcome all, home is there. Is there anything you need to say or do to make the experience of home real for someone else? Are you willing to do whatever it takes?
My Barnabas invites you to watch this video below: