It’s an amazing story of the conversion of a racist. Peter considered anyone who was not a Jew to be unclean, common, outside the boundaries of God’s reach. Peter wasn’t concerned about keeping Gentiles out of the workplace. No, his racism was much deeper and much more dangerous: He did not want Gentiles to be included in salvation. He simply could not see how they possibly could be! And, as an Orthodox Jew, Peter would have never entered the home of a Gentile or invited one into his home. But now Peter was a Christian. He had been saved by God’s grace, not because of his ethnicity or his gender, or even because of his character. And God was asking him to preach the same saving message of faith in Jesus Christ to Cornelius, a Roman centurion, and a Gentile. Read the story in Acts 10 and see the rooftop conversion of Peter from racism. I offer these four observations about that story and how it relates to you and me.
First, you can be greatly used by God before you are perfect, which is good news since we will never reach perfection this side of glory. When the church was born on the day of Pentecost, Peter was the first to preach the Gospel to the Jews. Then Peter, along with John, was the first to preach the Gospel to the Samaritans. Finally, Peter was the first to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles. But until that day, up on the rooftop, Peter was still a racist. The good news is that God can use us in spite of our shortcomings, however huge they may be. Every single person God has ever used to advance the Gospel of Jesus Christ was a sinner. Here’s the even better news: God loves us exactly the way we are and there’s nothing we can do to make God love us any more or love us any less. But God loves us enough not to leave us where we are.
Second, much of our walk with Christ, especially as a new Christian, is un-learning.
Peter had learned very well, his whole life, that some foods were unclean. But listen to what God says: “What God has made clean, do not call common.” Truth is, pork was unclean for the Jews. But God has made it clean. Truth is, we Gentiles were unclean as well. But God has made us clean through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. Truth is, every person is unclean: Jews, Gentiles, slave, free, male, female. But what God has made clean, we are not to call or treat as common. So much of what we learned as children has to be unlearned when we come to Christ.
Third, God opens our eyes through His Word. He spoke His Word to Peter in this story. And He has spoken His Word to us. It’s all right here, in the Bible. Are you bound up in sin? Don’t wait around for a vision or a visitation. It’s already been given. Read the Word.
Fourth, God leads His people on His timetable. Not ours. So, we can be patient with someone who has not had the same opportunities to learn from the Word.” Or who is not at the same maturity level. Or is simply not walking in the truth. That doesn’t mean we ignore sin. But we can be patient with the sinner, just as God has been, and is, patient with us.
God can change even the most hardened racist. He changed Peter. And me.
He can change you, too.