A Shattered Worldview
It was a long journey from Joppa to Caesarea. Not particularly in physical distance (31 miles), yet for Peter, sociologically, it might as well have been a trip to Mars. His world revolved around Judaism. Gentiles were unclean; befriending them was unheard of. But the Lord made it clear in a vision (Acts 10:9-20) that he, not Peter, determined what was clean, whether animal or human (vv. 15, 28). This shattered Peter's worldview. It overturned laws and attitudes that had long separated his people from everyone else. Peter's perceptions had to change drastically before he even opened his mouth to speak God's word to a Roman named Cornelius.
Fortunately for those of us who are Gentiles, Peter obeyed God, crossing cultural and ethnic barriers with the good news. He learned that God shows "no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him" (vv. 34-35).
The message Peter shared in verses 34-43 reflected God's plan to save people from all kinds of backgrounds. Although this crowd knew about Jesus (vv. 37-38), Peter witnessed and understood some things that they didn't. He told them about Jesus' death and resurrection (vv. 39-41). He explained God's plan of redemption: all who believe in Jesus are forgiven of their sin (v. 43). Then, to the utter amazement of Peter and those who had traveled with him, these Gentiles believed the gospel and received the Holy Spirit.
From Every Nation and Tongue
Sometimes our perceptions, like Peter's, need to change. We lack faith that God can move among certain types of people or those in circumstances different than ours. Or we believe he can't use us. But God is never limited in these ways. He has determined that one day redeemed people from every nation and tongue will stand before his throne and give him glory (Rev. 7:9). He's called every Christian to be part of his plan to bring salvation to many regardless of their ethnicity, language, age, religious background, economic status, or political persuasion.
I desire to be a person who takes risks for God's kingdom. If you follow him, I suspect you do, too. Peter is a model for us. He listened to God's instruction. He put aside preconceptions and traditional ways of doing things. He went to an unfamiliar place. He knew how to communicate the gospel clearly and boldly. He marveled at the Spirit's power to draw people to Christ. We can do that, too—whether our journey takes us next door, across town, or to the other side of the world. After all, God the Son crossed from heaven to earth to draw us to himself.
This article by Leeann Stiles was adapted from the ESV Women's Devotional Bible.