Sunday, May 22, 2011

Acts 10: the Spirit asks the unthinkable

In the fourth decade of first century Judea, Jews and Romans agree on one thing: they hate each other. To the Jew, the Roman is an oppressive, violent, greedy, unclean, idolatrous dog. To the Roman, a Jew is an arrogant, ungrateful, rebellious zealot. Armies of occupation and the subjects they oversee rarely hold hands around the campfire singing Kum-Bay-Yah, and this time and place is no exception.  

Then the Spirit of God declares war on bigotry, tribalism and race-hatred. A Kingdom divided cannot stand, much less advance against the world, the flesh and the devil. Rather than oxcarting Jewish children to Roman schools (forced Hellenization has been tried with disastrous results), the Spirit responds to godly prayers from both “sides” (Cornelius the Roman, Peter the Jew). He tells the Roman warrior and conqueror to do the unthinkable: risk terrible loss of status by humbly inviting a Jew to enter his home. Peter’s task is even more unthinkable: accept. Upon meeting they confess their brotherhood.

It is the Anti-Sign of Jonah. God tells the godly to reach across cultures in brotherly love…… and they do not flee in the opposite direction! From beginning to end, this is a miracle. Like the parting of the Red Sea, it is just a start and there will be backsliding. But the Church has taken a giant step forward to realizing Galatians 3:28-29: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”

I only began to notice that I was unconsciously ignoring African-American passersby, and they doing the same to me, when we started pushing Joe in a baby stroller. Suddenly, on the sidewalks and in the grocery store aisles of Chittenden County, we were all proud happy parents who loved our kids. Eye contact. Smiles. Names and phone numbers exchanged. Doors of communication swung open that are still open today. Then as now, all it took was the right little baby coming into the world. The wolf will live with the lamb, and a little child shall lead them.

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