Two Types of Prejudices:
Pre-judgement – willful choice
Prejudice by omission – ignorance
The gospel was given to invade brokenness and provide for us reconciliation.
Acts 1:8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.
This is the power of reconciliation. Up to this point, God dealt almost exclusively with Israel. Jesus is now hinting at a dramatic shift that is going to take place at the birth of the church. Acts lays out the movement from Judaism to Christianity.
The struggle though is that we are drawn to people who look like us, talk like us, and think like us. We are drawn to what is familiar rather than what is diverse.
Acts 10:23-28 And on the next day he got up and went away with them, and some of the brethren from Joppa accompanied him. On the following day he entered Caesarea. Now Cornelius was waiting for them and had called together his relatives and close friends. When Peter entered, Cornelius met him, and fell at his feet and worshiped him. But Peter raised him up, saying, “Stand up; I too am just a man.” As he talked with him, he entered and *found many people assembled. And he said to them, “You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a man who is a Jew to associate with a foreigner or to visit him; and yet God has shown me that I should not call any man unholy or unclean.
Acts 10:34 I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality.
Acts 10:44-48 While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message. All the circumcised believers who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. For they were hearing them speaking with tongues and exalting God. Then Peter answered, “Surely no one can refuse the water for these to be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we did, can he?” And he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to stay on for a few days.
The Holy Spirit brings reconciliation between this Jew and this Gentile. Peter’s heart experiences a shift, so much so that when life is pressed, he boldly offers a defense for the encounter.
Acts 11:1-2 Now the apostles and the brethren who were throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. And when Peter came up to Jerusalem, those who were circumcised took issue with him.
Now realize, they never even mention salvation. This is all about the prejudice. The problem for them was not about salvation of the Gentiles or what God had done, they couldn’t get past the fact he ate with them.
Peter tells them plainly what God had done and how they need to get over it.
The problem was that Peter, like many of us can do, drifted from what he experienced in Acts 10 back to what he was comfortable with. As a result, we have the confrontation in Galatians 2 between Paul and Peter.
Galatians 2:11-14 But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For prior to the coming of certain men from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he began to withdraw and hold himself aloof, fearing the party of the circumcision. The rest of the Jews joined him in hypocrisy, with the result that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy. But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in the presence of all, “If you, being a Jew, live like the Gentiles and not like the Jews, how is it that you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?
We have a tendency to drift back towards what looks like us and what we are comfortable with.
Paul points out that separated community is not in line with the Gospel.
Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.
Remember that none of us got into the Kingdom by anything we did.
Ephesians 2:11-16 Therefore remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called “Uncircumcision” by the so-called “Circumcision,” which is performed in the flesh by human hands— remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity.
The Gentiles were not looking for a Savior. This broke down the dividing wall.
If we have any hope for reconciliation, it must be driven by the Gospel.
This will require us all to enter areas where we will feel uncomfortable and will be misunderstood.
The church will continue to suffer until we become intimately aware that she was not built for our comfort and preferences, but the church is the means to provide reconciliation and salvation to a divided world.
What will you do to make sure the message of the Gospel remains central to our focus?
What personal prejudices have stood in the way of reconciliation either between you and someone or that person and Christ?
Until we honestly evaluate our own hearts, we will continually drift towards and become content with that which is not like us.
– What types of people do you harbor prejudice against?