“Now the apostles and the brothers who were throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the Word of God. So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcision party criticized him … But Peter began and explained it to them in order … ‘And I remembered the word of the Lord, how He said, “John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” If then God gave the same gift to them as He gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?’ When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, ‘Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.'”(Acts 11:1-2, 4, 16-18 ESV)
Dear Peter—what a mess he is in! Peter has just allowed a bunch of Gentiles into the baby Christian church, and the people back home are upset. He didn’t even make those people get circumcised! They don’t have to keep the Jewish law! What is Peter doing?! Is he trying to turn the church upside down?
But it was actually God Himself who was turning the church upside down. Jesus had already told His disciples that God’s salvation was for the entire world; and of course, that was going to include people who were not Jewish. But somehow, a lot of the first Christians never really thought it through. They expected the newcomers would act and think exactly the way they themselves did.
We still have this problem today, don’t we? We get used to doing things a certain way in our churches. We have music and customs and procedures. “We’ve always done it that way” is the battle cry of many congregations.
And then God comes, and with a single gust of His Holy Spirit turns our world upside down. He sends refugees to us, people from another country. Or maybe He sends people who are poorer than us, or richer than us. Maybe He sends university students, or people of a different race. And we are uncomfortable. Is this really the work of the Holy Spirit?
But Peter points out the one thing that unites the newcomers and older Christians. He says, “If then God gave the same gift to them as He gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?” There is one thing that all Christians share, no matter how different we are. Through the Holy Spirit’s work, we all trust in the same Lord Jesus Christ. We all believe in the Son of God who loved us and gave Himself for us, even to the point of dying on the cross. And then He rose from the dead, never to die again, and He offers the same life to all of us who trust Him.
This is why the Christian church is one—no matter how different we may look or sound or dress or behave. Our unity is Jesus. May the Holy Spirit make this clear through our actions so that the world looks at us and says, “See how they love one another!”
We Pray: Lord Holy Spirit, use me to welcome and love others, just as Jesus has loved me. Amen.
This Daily Devotion was written by Dr. Kari Vo.
Originally published in The Lutheran Hour on May 10, 2022
Used by permission from International Lutheran Laymen’s League, all rights reserved
1. How do you think outsiders would describe your congregation—the kind of people who go there?
2. Are there people near you who are different from you?
3. How might God be calling you to reach out to them with Jesus’ welcome?