-- Dorsey Smith
Acts describes the efforts of the Apostles and brethren to spread the Gospel in the years immediately following the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Of course they were guided by their understanding of God’s message and the events they experienced but they also were processing this effort through their background and the background of their intended audiences. Many were still in bondage to what they knew and believed such as those of the circumcision party who held strongly to purity laws who found it exceedingly inappropriate to mingle with and preach to those who were not considered fit or clean.
In Acts 11, Peter is directed by angels and visions to freely go to the Gentiles to declare that God has granted repentance unto life to them and, in my opinion, to all! In a vision, Peter responds to the Lord’s command to eat by saying that “No Lord, for nothing uncommon or unclean has ever entered my mouth. But the voice answered a second time from Heaven. “What God has cleansed you must not call common”. To me this has little to do with purity laws but really means that all have been cleansed by the Grace of God through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. This was also emphasized in the previous chapter when Peter said, “Truly I perceive that God shows no partiality, but in every nation any one who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.” It is clear to me that the love and Grace of God are meant for people from all nations and how could it be otherwise!
I have spent many years living abroad and this has afforded me the luxury of seeing how other cultures live their daily lives and how they engage in their own faith and religious practices. My experience is that people are shaped by their history and cultures and, therefore, their faith expressions often will be different from mine. Are they to be condemned or found unworthy because of that difference? Are they to be found wanting? I do not believe that it matters to God by what name we call Him, nor does the look of our worship make us more worthy than others because theirs is different. I believe that this is the message from Acts 11, that God is not offended by superficial things but is honored by what is done that is acceptable to Him! To me, God’s love is not to be limited by our lack of understanding and thankfully, by His Grace, we have been redeemed and found worthy, regardless of our cultural expressions, gender, and ethnicity.
Perhaps our mission is the same as the Apostles and early brethren. We are to share the love and intentionality of God’s love to all regardless of their station in life and no matter how they may differ from our ideals. I suspect some, if not many, may not be able to accept my sense of the generosity of God’s love. I suspect some may believe that there is only one way to God’s love and that is by the acceptance of Jesus Christ as the only way to salvation. I have struggled with that notion, especially after living in different countries but I cannot, when all is said and done, limit the power of God’s love by assuming that it is only for those who express their faiths and beliefs in only one way. What about you? How do you view the nature of God’s love? Who do you feel that Jesus died for?