God welcomes sinners and idolaters… surprise!


Acts 11:11 At that very moment three men, sent to me (the apostle Peter) from Caesarea, arrived at the house where we were. 12 The Spirit told me to go with them and not to make a distinction between them and us. These six brothers also accompanied me, and we entered (the Roman centurion Cornelius’) house. 13 He told us how he had seen the angel standing in his house and saying, ‘Send to Joppa and bring Simon, who is called Peter; 14 he will give you a message by which you and your entire household will be saved.’ 15 And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them just as it had upon us at the beginning. 16 And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ 17 If then God gave them the same gift that he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could hinder God?” 18 When they heard this, they were silenced. And they praised God, saying, “Then God has given even to the Gentiles the repentance that leads to life.” 

One of the most disruptive and yet beautiful things that God accomplished through Jesus was the massive expansion of persons potentially included in the community of faith. No longer was it just “righteous” Jews who were called to faith, but all people – especially the people deemed unworthy of God’s blessing and favor: lepers, prostitutes, tax collectors, the uncircumcised (Gentiles), even a Roman military commander named Cornelius and his household. For centuries such people were considered hopeless sinners and idolaters, but through “the repentance that leads to life” they were recognized as children of God who received the Holy Spirit.

Like many churches, the church I lead as pastor saw our outreach work curtailed during Covid. We didn’t stop completely, but the level of outreach and service ministry activity went way down. I’m hopeful that changes in 2023. This passage reminds me how the Lord may bring to us persons we think are out of bounds in some way. I expect we may be challenged to be open to whomever the Lord introduces us. Lord let it be so. Amen.

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