Enjoying the Journey
Born in the 1970’s, I just missed the civil rights movement of the previous decade. My friends and I read about the injustices and racial tensions in our history books but, gratefully saw little of it in the area where we were raised. I thank God that my parents and those who influenced me modeled a love and respect for all people.
Now, as my son is approaching adulthood, it seems that the racial divide has become prominent again in so many places. Our world is full of a hatred that could only be fueled by the devil who came to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10). And only the love of God can cut through that hatred.
When Jesus came to earth He did not come as a white man or a black man. He came as a man. In fact, in the good providence of God He was born in the one part of the world that touched Asia, Europe, and Africa! Israel was a land bridge to all people – a picture of God’s intention to reach the entire world. The gospel does not belong to one people group; it is God’s good news of salvation for every man (1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9).
Racial prejudice is sin and sin always brings conflict, confusion, and contention. The answer to this issue (like all sin problems) is found in the gospel. The New Testament beautifully demonstrates the progression of the gospel to all people. Paul was called “the apostle of the Gentiles” (Romans 11:13), and through his ministry there was “a door of faith opened unto the Gentiles” (Acts 14:27). This was a fulfillment of God’s plan to reach all people “unto the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
But it was first through Peter’s ministry that the door was unlocked. Remember that Christ promised that “the keys of the kingdom” (Matthew 16:19) would be used by Peter. In Acts 10 he used those keys as he preached Christ to Cornelius and the door swung wide open. Gentiles were invited in to a redemptive relationship with Christ!
It is of note that it was Peter who had to have his perspective changed. This transformation is best described in his own words, “God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean” (Acts 10:28). Here is God’s answer to all racial, social, cultural, and economic prejudices. All men have this in common: we are all sinners in need of a Savior.
Even stubborn, opinionated Simon Peter got it! “Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him” (Acts 10:34-35). The only division God draws is the distinction between those who believe and those who do not.
There is nothing as equitable as the gospel. Men may look at the color of a person’s skin but God looks at the soul. One old preacher said, “The ground is level at the foot of the cross.” If we are ever to reach our world we must see people as God does…
- God created all people. “God that made the world and all things therein…hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth” (Acts 17:24, 26).
- God loves all people. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
- Christ died for all people. “And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation” (Revelation 5:9).
- God commands the church to carry the good news to all people. “And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15).
- The Holy Spirit made it so that people of all backgrounds heard the gospel on the Day of Pentecost. “And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born? Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God” (Acts 2:8-11).
- God sees all believers the same in Christ. “Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all” (Colossians 3:11).
- God will receive worship from all people in eternity. “After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb” (Revelation 7:9-10).
Jonah had to learn God’s heart for all people in the Old Testament. Peter had to learn it in the New Testament. We must learn it today.
One final word…Peter had his heart changed as he prayed. Perhaps if we spent more time getting God’s heart and interceding for all people we too would find our own prejudices melting in the presence of divine love. It is time to pray, time to love, and time to preach the good news to all people.