ACTS 10:13-16: “And a voice came to him, “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.” But Peter said, “Not so, Lord! For I have never eaten anything common or unclean.” And a voice spoke to him again the second time, “What God has cleansed you must not call common.” This was done three times. And the object was taken up into heaven again.” NKJV
OBSERVATION: Is there a cure for prejudice? Is there anything that can bridge the racial divide in our culture? Is there something that levels the playing field, fosters true community, and breaks down the walls of hatred? I believe that there is! It is not a government program or a new social revolution. The only cure for prejudice is…
THE GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST!
I grew up in the 60s and 70s during some very difficult racial tension. I witnessed racial riots firsthand. There was prejudice on every side. And, now today, I am witnessing the cycle of history repeating itself. It has been over 50 years and there is still no change. It seems like society has regressed. The speeches of Martin Luther King fall on deaf ears. And, if I am honest, I am dealing with old feelings of prejudice in my heart that I thought were vanquished long ago.
Prejudice is not cured from the outside because it is a struggle of the heart. There is racial prejudice, gender prejudice, socio-economic prejudice, and geopolitical prejudice because we all are sinners. Left to ourselves we will huddle and group with the people we feel the most comfortable with and dismiss the rest. We will build walls of distrust, disinformation, and disunity based on our prejudices. And, the worst expression of this is when prejudice becomes hatred and is acted out through violence in the public arena.
Peter was a Jew – and he was prejudiced. His prejudice was the norm of his day among his people. The Jews were the chosen people of God. Their nation had been persecuted for generations by the Gentiles. They did not view the Gentiles as their neighbor. To a devout Jew, a Gentile was a vile dog – to be despised and never to be associated with. If the Gospel of Jesus Christ was going to move past Jerusalem to Samaria and the uttermost parts of the world, God was going to have to change Peter’s heart.
The Lord did this in two ways. First, He sent an angel to visit Cornelius, a Gentile worshipper of God. Second, He visited Peter in a vision while Peter slept. God directed Cornelius, a Roman Centurion, to call for Peter to come so that he could hear God’s word. The Romans (Gentiles) were ruling and oppressing God’s people. How could Peter go and speak to such a person? Peter could only do this if his heart was changed. It was not something that would happen automatically.
It would require the third time Jesus spoke to Peter in “threes.”
- The first time Jesus spoke to Peter in “threes” was when He warned Peter that he would deny Jesus three times. Peter did deny Christ three times and it dramatically impacted his life.
- The second time Jesus spoke to Peter in “threes” was when He restored Peter after the resurrection and affirmed His love for Peter and called Peter to feed and shepherd God’s flock.
- Now, through this dream, Jesus speaks to Peter once again in “threes.” Three times Peter sees food that was forbidden for a Jew to eat and three times the Lord said –
“Rise, Peter; kill and eat…What God has cleansed you must not call common.”
This no doubt got Peter’s attention. In fact, he could not stop thinking about it. He wondered what the Lord was trying to teach Him. Just then, the Holy Spirit spoke to Peter and told him three men (another three!) were coming to seek him and that Peter should go with them. Peter may have been dealing with prejudice in his life but he had a teachable heart. He followed God’s instructions and the three men brought him to the house of a Roman Centurion. Peter must have thought – “Surely, this has something to do with my vision!”
Cornelius gathered together his relatives and close friends and told Peter about the visit he had with the angel. He then asked Peter to share with them all that God had commanded him to share. Peter began to preach Jesus Christ. He bore witness to His miracles, sacrificial death for our sins, and victorious resurrection. Peter preached the GOSPEL! And, as he did, something remarkable happened.
- “While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word. And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God. Then Peter answered, “Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then they asked him to stay a few days.” Acts 10:44-48 NKJV
This astonished both Peter and the Jews who accompanied him. There was no altar call, Peter did not lay his hands on these Gentiles – he simply proclaimed the GOSPEL! The message of Jesus Christ was met with open hearts in those who listened and God poured out the Holy Spirit upon all the Gentiles gathered together. How could this be? Peter realized that it was the fulfillment of God’s vision when three times He spoke –
”What God has cleansed you must not call common.”
In one instant the walls of separation were taken away. They were not a group of Jews and Gentiles. They were not a group of soldiers and the subjugated masses. The cross of Jesus Christ removed everything that separated them. They were united in faith and the indwelling gift of the Holy Spirit. They went from enmity to love, enemies to brothers and sisters in Christ. Prejudice was dealt a death blow with one thing, and one thing only –
THE GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST!
I am convicted as I reflect upon this wonderful account of transformation. The ability to love across all lines that divide is the love of Jesus Christ. This love is proclaimed and realized as we hear and believe in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. To the world, this seems like foolishness. Yet, to those of us who have believed and experienced its power, it is the only thing that can cure prejudice!
- “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” I Corinthians 1:18 NKJV
- “But now in Christ Jesus, you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity.: Ephesians 2:13-16 NKJV
Lord, touch my heart once again with the power of the Gospel. Tear down every wall of separation. Fill me to overflowing so that I can love others with the great love with which you have loved me. Awaken Your Church to see the power of the Gospel once again. May we be called and emboldened to shout it from house to house and from the mountaintops!
JESUS IS THE CURE FOR PREJUDICE!
- “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.” Romans 1:16 NKJV
In Jesus’ Name!