Why do we as Christians sometimes hold on to our preconceived ideas of “who God wants in our church”? I know all about the “homogenous principle” and that like attracts like… but when it comes to reaching out to people with the gospel, when it comes to evangelism – are we too interested in what people look and sound like to see the greater story God is trying to tell through the church?
34 Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism 35 but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right. 36 You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, telling the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. 37 You know what has happened throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached– 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him. 39 “We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a tree, 40 but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. 41 He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen–by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42 He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. 43 All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.“- Acts 10:34-44 –
Acts 10 represents a paradigm shift in the way Peter and the disciples began to think about their mission. Up to this point they had assumed that Jesus was the Messiah primarily for the Jews; and while they knew Gentiles who expressed faith, it wasn’t until this chapter that God revealed to Peter just how big his plan really is… it is to the whole world – to every tribe and nation, to all people regardless of their ethnic backgrounds or socio-economic standing… clean and unclean… This isn’t the first time God has revealed the scope – in Genesis 12 He promises that all the nations will be blessed because of Abraham, and the theme of a worldwide redemption through God’s promised salvation is prevalent throughout the Bible.
Now, I’m not saying that the church should accept sinful lifestyles or attitudes. That’s not transformation, that’s not evangelism. The good news is that we can be saved and freed from our sin through the grace of Jesus Christ and the sacrifice of his blood on the cross. To say that God then acceptance those who would not turn from sin in order to turn toward him – isn’t the good news at all.
However, as Peter says, “God does not show favoritism…” We shouldn’t shy away from the broken and hurting, but we should seek them out that they may know the mercy of God. We shouldn’t look only to the those who fit our preconceived ideas of is a “church person” and who isn’t. But our prayer today is that God would bring all people to his church that they may hear the gospel of Jesus Christ – whoever they are, and whatever state of brokenness they come in.