In a world that glorifies conformity and is quick to associate people with different groups, it can be a challenge to be accepting of those who are not similar to us. However, as Pastor Rob pointed out this Sunday, this is an obstacle we must overcome if we are going to rekindle the fire of the gospel in our post-modern world.
A rather upsetting point that Pastor Rob made was that the gospel is more or less dead in the West. Many people in our culture don’t believe in any god. However, they are still worshipping many idols, just like the people in the past who worshipped a plethora of gods. The difference is that the idols modern people worship are less obvious, such as phones, social media, and celebrities. But regardless of what they are worshipping, the problem is that they are not worshipping our wonderful, indescribable God, and that’s where we come in.
As a church and as individuals we are called by Jesus Christ to make disciples of all nations. Matthew 28:19-20 says, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” So why isn’t this happening in the West? Pastor Rob explains that this is because we are not as accepting of people as God calls us to be. He focuses on the story of Cornelius in the book of Acts to elaborate on this point.
Cornelius is a Roman centurion who was described in the Bible as a God-fearing man. He often gave to the poor and prayed to God on a regular basis. One day an angel of God came to him in a vision and told him to send men to Joppa and bring back a man named Simon who is called Peter. Before the men arrived, Peter had a vision. While he was praying he became hungry, and in his vision a large sheet filled with many kinds of animals, including reptiles and birds, was being let down to earth. Most of these animals were not pure by the Jewish faith. God then told him to kill and eat, but Peter claimed that he had never eaten anything impure. The angel of God responded in Acts 10:15 “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.”
When the men arrived, Peter went with them to Cornelius’ house. It should be noted that it was against the Jewish law for Jews to visit or even associate with Gentiles, but God had called Peter to go with the men so he obeyed. Peter arrived at the house to find a large group waiting for him. He began to speak to them, saying, “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right” (Acts 10:34-35). He then preached the gospel and the Holy Spirit was poured out on all of them, Jews and Gentiles alike. When Peter saw this, he ordered that the Gentiles be baptized.
This is an example of looking past the boundaries of differing social groups and being accepting of others. As we see in this story, looking past the boundaries can help us to spread the gospel and grow God’s kingdom. Although Cornelius was an uncircumcised Gentile, he was able to be baptized because his focus was on God. I think we could learn a valuable lesson from this example from the past. An important point to note is that if we stay in the boundary mindset, people become believers but they often do not continue to grow in their faith. What is the point of improving if you’re already accepted into the group? On the other hand, if we have a more accepting mindset that includes anyone who is moving towards the common goal (God), believers are encouraged to continue growing as disciples and further God’s kingdom. This week I challenge you to look outside social boundaries to find ways to spread the good news.
I also hope everyone noticed that Pastor Rob was not wearing a bow tie! Have a great week and God bless!