Acts 10: 25-26, 34-35, 44-48
I cannot tell you how many times my children said to me “it’s not fair.” That was a constant no matter which child or what the circumstances were. Each of my children believed they were not given the breaks their siblings were given. The concept of how fairly they are treated by parents, teachers, life or other people was hard to deal with because fairness was defined by them and it was definitely biased.
Do we have biases or inbuilt prejudices about people, institutions or parts of the country? Just ask someone who graduated from a Big Ten University how they view the football programs of the SEC. You will hear comments about a lack of academic qualifications, recruiting violations and payments to players along with other unsubstantiated claims to emphasize their excellence over the other conference. Listen to a conversation from someone who was raised on the east coast comparing it to the west coast of the United Stated or the north versus the south. I dare you to get into a discussion of the merits of your state with a Texan.
The truth is, we know life is not fair and things are not always on a level playing field when it comes to life. We expect our bosses to be fair when it comes to raises and promotions and our laws to be fair when it comes to applying them to each of us. Yet all you have to do is listen to people and you will find someone who thinks they have been penalized unfairly in those areas.
Can we depend on God to treat us fairly if parents, friends, society and institutions fail us constantly?
Today Peter tells us God is going to always be consistent and treat everyone the same regardless of their merit or lack of merit.
Peter did not begin his work as a disciple believing God’s gift of salvation included everyone. In fact, his own belief told him Cornelius was unclean, to be avoided and not worthy of his time since he was not one of God’s chosen people. Peter, by his own desire, would never have gone to the house of Cornelius. He went there because gave him a clear command to do so and making sure in the process Peter was not to call unworthy what God declared as worthy.
This should make us stop and consider our own prejudices about who is worthy to be offered salvation. I know for a fact, from my Jewish friend, modern day Jews believe God’s mercy extends to all who believe in God – regardless of his name. Even while they reject Jesus as the promised Messiah; they believe God’s mercy extends to all who believe and they acknowledge Christians believe.
We should go back and read the Vatican II documents for in those documents our church expresses the same belief in God’s mercy. So what should we do about God’s impartiality?
Perhaps you should go and read the full account of Peter’s unwillingness to deviate from the Jewish law and go to Cornelius. We have a gospel message today giving us a command not a suggestion but a command. That command is “…love one another as I love you.”
What do we do about someone we love who has not gone to church in years and suddenly is evangelized? This individual we love is now evangelized and now attends a non-denominational church? Do we condemn them or do we support them and rejoice because they have embraced faith in Christ? Do we condemn them or do we join Peter by saying ““In truth, I see that God shows no partiality. Rather, in every nation whoever fears him and acts uprightly is acceptable to him.”
Does our desire to be obedient to the law give us a license to act without love and judge the worthiness of God’s mercy or them to judge us?
Perhaps we all need to have an encounter with God as Peter did to understand how God desires all to come to believe in him. If we could begin to understand the depth of God’s love for all his creation we would realize how God desires to touch all our hearts. Everyone who embraces Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and does what is right in his eyes is welcomed by God. This is the heart of God and our Vatican Ii documents reinforce God’s mercy goes beyond our comprehension.
Peter in his second letter tells us “…God is patient with us not desiring any to perish but desiring all to come to faith and repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
It is not faith in the law that offers us eternal life but belief and faith in Jesus Christ. In fact, Paul tells us the law can only point out our sin and condemn us. However, he also tells us once the Holy Spirit writes the law of God on our hearts we will follow all the laws of God including the law of love.
As long as we depend on our ability to follow the law we will live our faith demanding fairness for ourselves and condemnation for those who disobey the laws of God. By our focus on the law we will miss feeling the love of God as he embraces us as we turn to him for forgiveness. We will also be unable to celebrate the return of the unworthy as they turn to God for forgiveness. If we begin to judge one’s worth of God’s mercy we become the prodigals older brother demanding punishment not a reward for repentance.
How can we move to understand the lesson Peter learned about God’s law of love?
We need to allow the Spirit of God to teach us the truth about sin, condemnation and have the love of God poured into our hearts. As we are filled with God’s presence by the work of the Spirit we will begin to understand his love for those who are faithful and those who are unfaithful. It is then like Peter we will begin to understand how we can set aside our judgment and rejoice in the fairness of God – as he welcomes all who desire to know him.