There was a man named Cornelius who lived in Caesarea, captain of the Italian Guard stationed there. He was a thoroughly good man. He had led everyone in his house to live worshipfully before God, was always helping people in need, and had the habit of prayer. One day about three o’clock in the afternoon he had a vision. An angel of God, as real as his next-door neighbor, came in and said, “Cornelius.” Cornelius stared hard, wondering if he was seeing things. Then he said, “What do you want, sir?”
The angel said, “Your prayers and neighborly acts have brought you to God’s attention. Here’s what you are to do. Send men to Joppa to get Simon, the one everyone calls Peter. He is staying with Simon the Tanner, whose house is down by the sea.”
As soon as the angel was gone, Cornelius called two servants and one particularly devout soldier from the guard. He went over with them in great detail everything that had just happened, and then sent them off to Joppa.
The next day as the three travelers were approaching the town, Peter went out on the balcony to pray. It was about noon. Peter got hungry and started thinking about lunch. While lunch was being prepared, he fell into a trance. He saw the skies open up. Something that looked like a huge blanket lowered by ropes at its four corners settled on the ground. Every kind of animal and reptile and bird you could think of was on it. Then a voice came: “Go to it, Peter—kill and eat.”
Peter said, “Oh, no, Lord. I’ve never so much as tasted food that was not kosher.” The voice came a second time: “If God says it’s okay, it’s okay.” This happened three times, and then the blanket was pulled back up into the skies. As Peter, puzzled, sat there trying to figure out what it all meant, the men sent by Cornelius showed up at Simon’s front door. They called in, asking if there was a Simon, also called Peter, staying there. Peter, lost in thought, didn’t hear them, so the Spirit whispered to him, “Three men are knocking at the door looking for you. Get down there and go with them. Don’t ask any questions. I sent them to get you.”
Peter went down and said to the men, “I think I’m the man you’re looking for. What’s up?” They said, “Captain Cornelius, a God-fearing man well-known for his fair play—ask any Jew in this part of the country—was commanded by a holy angel to get you and bring you to his house so he could hear what you had to say.” Peter invited them in and made them feel at home.
The next morning he got up and went with them. Some of his friends from Joppa went along. A day later they entered Caesarea. Cornelius was expecting them and had his relatives and close friends waiting with him. The minute Peter came through the door, Cornelius was up on his feet greeting him—and then down on his face worshiping him! Peter pulled him up and said, “None of that—I’m a man and only a man, no different from you.”
~Acts 10:1-23 (MSG)
People, I admit it. I grew up liking who I liked and not liking who I didn’t like and I was perfectly comfortable with that for a very long time. I’ll also admit I have attitude relapses. These relapses occur about the time I get a little complacent and proud of my open mind. I have come down with some severe attacks of feeling quite comfortable with people who think like me, look like me, and believe as I believe.
This didn’t come from nowhere. You and I both know that our aversion to different is taught. For me, it had a lot to do with where I lived as a child. I grew up in a small town in the Midwest. It was s-m-a-l-l. I didn’t know it at the time, but some people were very intentionally warned to stay away from my little town. So I didn’t have a lot of experience with “different” growing up.
My world expanded. I went away to college, I moved closer to Chicago. I grew to love different…at least some parts of different. We cling to our belief systems, don’t we? Truth. We do love to feel comfortable. We’ve got to be shoved out of comfortable. Often God has to use both hands. I believe God was doing some shoving when He moved this Midwestern girl to Central Florida. When was the last time God shoved you?
In Acts 10, God is preparing Peter for a hotline call from Caesarea. Note this little detail in the first verses of Acts 10: Cornelius was a “thoroughly good man” and “had the habit of prayer.” Cornelius had God’s heart because Cornelius helped others and spent time with God. That’s an example worth imitating.
Even though God is sending Peter to see a man who is known and respected, God absolutely knows that this situation is going to be quite challenging for Peter. God-fearing Cornelius may be, but he is clearly not in Peter’s clique. God knows that Peter is going to be stuck on the fact that it would simply not be “kosher” to do a meet and greet with someone from that neck of the woods. Therefore, God needs to give Peter the big thumbs up. Three times, God told Peter clearly that it was all going to be okay. Here’s the thing—if God says it is okay, then to ignore His command would be to disobey.
The aforementioned meet and greet happens. Here’s Peter’s heart-stopping message to Cornelius in verse 34:
It’s God’s own truth, nothing could be plainer: God plays no favorites! It makes no difference who you are or where you’re from—if you want God and are ready to do as he says, the door is open. The Message he sent to the children of Israel—that through Jesus Christ everything is being put together again—well, he’s doing it everywhere, among everyone. (MSG)
Do you know what I’ve noticed? God is molding me into a new creation that not only has the desire to reach out to, but actually to crave fellowship with different people. Are you nodding? Is this happening in your life too? I pray it is! I want everyone to know that God is crazy about them. Honestly, God is shifting everything around in me so that I could care less about who people are, where they come from or what they’ve done. God has created a new spirit in me that is radically different than what it was as I was younger. You see, I still want to be comfortable, but I can’t be comfortable as long as there are people who don’t know the Good News of Jesus Christ. So what I find myself doing is putting myself out there, time after time. I go ahead and risk feeling awkward because Christ compels me through the Holy Spirit.
God is the source of your will, therefore you are able to work out His will. Obstinacy is an unintelligent ‘wadge’ that refuses to be enlightened; the only thing is for it to be blown up with dynamite, and the dynamite is obedience to the Holy Spirit.
Do I believe that Almighty God is the source of my will? God not only expects me to do His will, but He is in me to do it.
– Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest
We should never underestimate the power of the Holy Spirit. Truly, it is not the narrow-minded, legalistic, judgmental me that reaches out to love on someone that I don’t feel comfortable with. It’s the power of the Holy Spirit in me. To God be the glory.
Breathe out all your anxiety about befriending someone who is outside of your self-imposed ring of comfort. Start simply. Smile. Offer a kind word. The Holy Spirit is in you to guide you and help you always and forever. It’s one of our God’s greatest and most precious promises.
There is no shadow of turning in you, God. You are always just and righteous. You treat everyone exactly the same—you love them all. You love even me, as broken and self-centered as I am. You are my good, good father and I want everyone to know you as their father too. Show me how, Holy Spirit. Be in me and work through me. I seek to do your will. I seek to please you. In the name of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen.
I pray you experience a blessing as you watch and listen to this cinematic presentation of Be Thou My Vision by Audrey Assad or listen with your heart to Elevation Worship’s Give Me Faith. I often feel a movement of the Holy Spirit in a time of quiet personal worship through beautiful music. To God be the glory forever and ever! Amen.
Today’s post was written by Cindy Koopmans.
Cindy is married to her college sweetheart, Brian, for 38 years. She has three grown boys, two sweet daughters-in-law and a gorgeous little grand-man named Oliver Brian. Cindy teaches fifth grade at Sorrento Elementary and serves at the Mount Dora campus as their Worship Coordinator. Cindy’s passion is music, so her happy place is at the keyboard. She also enjoys reading (so many books, so little time), thrifting, and hanging out with Kramer the wonder Bichon. You can find her on Sunday mornings worshiping at our Real Life Mount Dora campus.